Sustainable Regional Food Systems Workshop Videos

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From June 25-27 the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems hosted an international workshop of researchers from the UK, Germany, South Africa, the US and CAnada, all associated with the Centre.

On June 26, many of these researchers presented their work at a public forum entitled “Sustainable Regional Food Systems”. The videos are available at the links below.
SRFS Workshop Panel 1: Flows of people, knowledge and resources

SRFS Workshop Panel 2: Social Dimensions of Regional Food Systems

SRFS Workshop Panel 3: Activating for change

SRFS Workshop Panel 4: Sustainable Regional Food Systems: Policy and Planning

New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System

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American Farmland Trust (AFT), Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) are pleased to announce the release of their new report New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System

A sustainable food and farming system in New England is key to creating a region that is resilient, just, healthy, economically vibrant, and environmentally sound. New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System identifies policies that are helping New England grow its capacity to feed itself, policies that are hindering this growth, gaps in the existing policy framework, and opportunities for new policies to strengthen our food system. Read more

Videos from Feeding Cities Conference

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Videos, presentations, and photos of the the conference “Feeding Cities: Rural-Urban Connections and the Future of Family Farming” are now available on the conference website:

The conference, held in Toronto on June 23-24, 2014, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University.

Special Issue on Cooperatives Available FREE in July!

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The special issue of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD) on Cooperatives and Alternative Food Systems Initiatives has just been completed and will be freely available — no subscription needed! — through the month of July. The journal is doing this to make these papers more readily available to researchers and practitioners and to extend the research on and practice of cooperatives. It also offers prospective subscribers a chance to explore the contents of JAFSD.

This issue also includes an article about our community partner: Leveraging the Local: Cooperative Food Systems and the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network in Ontario, Canada.

Please share this information with your colleagues and networks.

A Place for Food in Public Spaces

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Wisdom from community builders

Upcoming webinar: Thursday, July 3, 2014 12-1 p.m. EDT

To learn more and register, visit

Join Community Food Centres Canada for a free webinar that will explore different ways community-builders are using food programs like community gardens, markets, public suppers, and bake ovens to animate local parks. We’ll highlight how the principles of placemaking can transform public spaces by highlighting local assets and serving common needs.
On the panel are Jutta Mason, who for over 20 years has led the transformation of Dufferin Grove Park to a vibrant, community-supported park, and Sabina Ali, who alongside a Women’s Committee in her culturally diverse neighbourhood of Thorncliffe Park, started a plein air South Asian bazaar and community Tandoor oven. Moderator Liz Curran, the Manager of the Regent Park Community Food Centre at CRC, is developing a suite of food programs to animate the newly re-developed Regent Park neighbourhood, including gardens, a greenhouse, and bake ovens.
We hope you can join us! Feel free to Share it on Facebook, forward via email, or Tweet about it (we’re @aplaceforfood and you can use the #placemaking tag)

When: Thursday, July 3, 2014 from 12 to 1 p.m. EDT

Where: Your Computer

How Much: Free!


In the meantime, if you’re interested in whetting your appetite leading up to the webinar, we recently wrote a piece about how Regent Park Community Food Centre is undertaking placemaking in a nearby public park; and if you’d like to learn more about how community gardening programs work in the context of a Community Food Centre, have a look at our info-packed module on the topic.

As with all our webinars, this one will be posted to The Pod Knowledge Exchange along with a host of downloadable resources a week or so after the event. Become a member of The Pod to stay in the loop about this webinar and others yet to come.

Sustainable Regional Food Systems Workshop: Theory, Practice and Policy

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Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

Thursday, 26 June 2014 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (EDT)
Waterloo, ON

Hosted by the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, this workshop brings together international academics, practitioners, and policy makers to share on-going research and policy initiatives. The workshop is SOLD OUT!


8:30 – 9:00 – Registration & Welcome

9:00 – 10:30


Discussant: Terry Marsden, Director, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University 

Rich Pirog, Senior Associate Director, Michigan State University, Centre for Regional Food Systems

The Michigan Good Food Charter: Using networks to create change in the food system

Juliane Brandt, Christoph Kasper and Undine Giseke, Technical University, Berlin

Urban agriculture as an integrated planning strategy – a productive green infrastructure for Casablanca

Andrew Spring, PhD Candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Joe Hanlon, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board

Food security in the Sahtú Region, NWT

Charles Levkoe, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wilfrid Laurier University

The food movement in Canada: A social movement network perspective

10:30 – 10:45 – Networking Break

10:45 – 12:15


Discussant: Cornelia Flora, Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University

Damien Conaré, UNESCO Chair in World Food Systems, Montpellier SupAgro

Emerging linkages in global food studies: A UNESCO Chair perspective

Peter Andree and Patricia Ballamingie, Carleton University, and Carolyn Doris

Challenges at the intersection of food and housing security with fair wages for farmers

Molly Anderson, Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine

Fostering food security through sustainable regional food system visions

Erin Nelson and Karen Landman, University of Guelph

Alternative agri-food initiatives and social capital: Learnings from Ontario and Mexico

12:15 – 1:30 – Networking Lunch

1:30 – 2:45


Discussant: Laurette Dube, Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University

Connie Nelson and Mirella Stroink, Lakehead University, and community partner

Crowd sourcing and sustainable food system projects

Irena Knezevic, Research Associate, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Su Morin and Linda Best

Innovative food initiatives in Atlantic Canada

Lori Stahlbrand, PhD Candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University

Institutional local sustainable food procurement: Building capacity

2:45 – 3:00 – Networking Break

3:00 – 4:30


Discussant: Wayne Roberts, Food Policy Consultant, Retired Toronto Food Policy Council Manager

Phil Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wilfrid Laurier University

Supply management and local food: Solving chicken and egg riddles

Jill Clarke, Assistant Professor, John Glenn School of Public Policy, Ohio State University

Integrating sustainable food systems into planning

Samina Raja, Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Planning, State University of New York at Buffalo

Planning for food: Insights from the Healthy Communities Lab

Jane Battersby-Lennard, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Everyone’s problem, no-one’s mandate: Working towards an urban food systems approach in Cape Town, South Africa 

4:30 – 5:00 – Closing

Opportunities for Innovation: A Student Nutrition Program Pilot Project in Windsor-Essex

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A report prepared by Erin Nelson for the VON Canada, Erie St. Clair District.

Through the summer and fall of 2012, the VON engaged in conversations about Student Nutrition Program challenges and opportunities with a variety of partners in Windsor-Essex, including Windsor’s Unemployed Help Centre (UHC) and the local public and Catholic school boards. Those conversations led to the implementation of a 14-week pilot project that was launched in February 2013. Supporting 114 classrooms across 6 schools (3 in Windsor and 3 in Essex County), the pilot project partnered with an innovative high school co-op program based out of the UHC, and focused on using central procurement as a way to streamline food purchasing for school nutrition programs. Read the entire report here ( pdf 1.2 mB).

Is that all there is… to debate?

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Vote on Food and Farming analysis

Many have commented since the June 3 Ontario leaders’ debate that little attention was paid to health care, which makes up about 40% of the provincial budget. Food and farming faced the same lack of attention – hardly surprising, given the six ‘representative’ questions that the media selected to guide the debate: ethics, energy, jobs, debt, transit and education.

It’s a shame that the agriculture and food debate –organized by OFA and the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors– was cancelled. This debate might have given some insight into party platforms that don’t get a lot of prime time exposure.

It’s also a shame that there wasn’t a seventh question in the televised debate, asking the leaders to explain how their earlier positions would affect the development of agriculture and food in the province – forcing them to make clear the links between education, jobs, investment, (health!) and agriculture and food policies.

On May 23rd, Sustain Ontario’s Vote on Food and Farming campaign attempted to do just that, by asking party leaders to reflect on questions covering topics as diverse as health promotion, training and cross-ministerial cooperation – as they relate to agriculture and food issues. I went through their answers with interest, looking for points of consensus as well some of the details in their proposed solutions to issues that shape our food systems.

Three parties –the LiberalsNDP and Green Party– submitted thorough responses, while the PC leader sent a form letter with three brief paragraphs about the Million Jobs Plan. As a result, the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card was full of question marks in the PC column. I hunted down the PC white papers (which can’t be accessed from their own website!) in order to fill in that picture.

And what these white papers show is that the PC Party’s agri-food platform is largely silent on many of the issues captured in the Vote on Food and Farming. This is hardly surprising for issues that the party’s current election platform prevents them from acknowledging – such as increasing social assistance to cover the cost of a nutritious food basket, or increasing the reach of the Student Nutrition Program. In other areas, the white papers’ silence reflects low priorities (at least at the time of writing) for the promotion of healthy eating; encouraging ecologically regenerative agricultural practices; protecting pollinators and their habitat; and protecting farmland.

It is also hardly surprising that, on many of these same issues, the other three parties are all pointed in the same direction, differ only in degree, and could therefore –in theory– work with each other. For example, while the Greens advocate universal approaches in student nutrition programming, guaranteed annual income, protection of class 1 farmland and neonicotinoid controls, they would be unlikely to reject Liberal or NDP policy suggestions which move in the same directions.

One set of solutions highlights interesting differences between the parties: how to get beyond the Ministry-level ‘silos’ that often discourage cross-ministerial cooperation and coordination on food issues.

  • The NDP would “develop a coordinated approach that makes sense”;
  • The PCs would “create one-window access to government for farmers and agribusinesses so they can obtain information efficiently and get one straight answer from government”;
  • The Liberals would “convene an inter-ministerial committee to engage stakeholders such as Sustain on an integrated government approach to agriculture, food, nutrition, health, and environment issues”; and
  • The Greens would convene “an Ontario Food Policy Council with stakeholders and members of the public that is ingrained within OMAF, including a representative from each party and the Premier’s Office”

While I don’t want to overstate the significance of a single statement, these replies suggest some fundamental differences in their approaches to governance.

However, differences were not the rule. In fact, all four parties agree on two issues: setting targets for public procurement purchases of local food, and realizing the Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit, which are both sections of the Local Food Act, but are not yet proclaimed. Of course, even universal agreement doesn’t guarantee action in the current legislature: all parties promised to ease the regulatory burden on small and mid-scale processors in the 2011 campaign, and are repeating that promise in this campaign – since nothing was accomplished in the interim.

Often, the reason for lack of action can be found in the details. For example, only the Greens acknowledged that setting targets for procurement of local foods would be unhelpful without also increasing the funding to hospitals and other institutions. It is often such details that turn what appears to be consensus on the campaign trail into division in the legislature.

Another example: while there is a general consensus that the province needs more regionally-based infrastructure to move local food, the Liberals are investigating whether this can be done by giving money to mainstream distributors, and the PCs are suggesting that another food terminal will do the trick. These approaches reflect a fundamental misreading of both the historical lessons of regional food processing, distribution and marketing in the province, as well as the necessary components of a sustainable, regional-scale food infrastructure.

The leaders’ debate could have provided some much-needed details on the factors that shape their parties’ food and farming policies. Before you make your decision on voting day, be sure to take a look at the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card, which provides some of those details.

Phil Mount,

Valens Ontario

Participatory Plant Breeding

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Join the Bean Breeding group for a talk by a visiting agronomist.

Monday June 9, 2014
202 Crop Science Bldg., University of Guelph

Marvin Gomez is a Honduran agronomist and a leader in Participatory Plant Breeding in Central America.

For the past 10 years he has worked with the Honduran NGO, Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers (FIPAH), which partners with local farmer researchers to develop maize and bean varieties for poor hillside farmers.  FIPAH works extensively with breeders at the Pan American Agricultural School, Zamorano, and at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). FIPAH’s work is to support local farmers by training them to cross landraces with breeder materials and to provide farmers with access to unreleased breeder materials through participatory varietal selection.   Some of these farmer selected/generated materials have already been released at the national level in Honduras and others are in the pipeline for release. FIPAH, long supported by Sally Humphries, University of Guelph, is recognized in Central America as a leader in the field of participatory plant breeding by both scientists and civil society organizations alike.