Category Archives: sustainability

Fortnightly Feast

Canadian Food and Beverage Manufacturers investing locally, supporting healthy & sustainable food systems globally (Newswire Canada)

Provision CoalitionCanada’s food and beverage manufacturer sustainability organization, has released a series of resources making sustainability solutions simple and accessible for food and beverage manufacturers across Canada. “At Provision Coalition, we have developed a number of tools that are supporting manufacturers in taking a strategic sustainability approach to their operations. For instance, tools that assist with manufacturer food waste are having economic, environmental and even social benefits,” said Cher Mereweather, Executive Director, Provision CoalitionRead more…..

The Food Chain (TVO)

Ontario’s public television—TVO—has a new(ish) current affairs program on all things food. The Food Chain runs Mondays at 9 pm on tv, supplemented by articles and weekly summaries posted online. Recent interesting stories include the wild food bank and the low-gluten communion wafer. Keep your eyes on this page for an upcoming story on prison farms. Read more

And Speaking of Prison Farms…(CBC)

Long-time supporters of a federal prison farm program in Kingston, Ont., are looking to re-establish it five years after the Harper government shut it down. The Pen Farm Herd Co-Op, which acquired some of the cows from the former prison farm, said it has a commitment from the new Trudeau government to reopen the operation at Collins Bay penitentiary in Kingston. The co-op said it has developed a business plan that has already received preliminary approval from the Liberals. Read more

Restorative Justice Organization wins Community Resilience and Food Security Funding (CFICE)

L.I.N.C. (Long-term Inmates Now in the Community) is a non-profit charity that works to develop positive understanding and dialogue between prison institutions, long-term offenders and the community. Emma’s Acres produces vegetables, herbs and fruit grown naturally on an eight-acre property leased to them by the District of Mission. “We figure we will be self-sustaining in two years, not this summer but next summer. So the money will allow us to do needed improvements to the infrastructure and buildings there”. Read more

Pulses could be the foundation of a new food era (Globe & Mail)

A new year is soon upon us and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared that 2016 will be the International Year of Pulses. The idea is to position pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients. Given the science behind pulses, and the challenges animal-protein production faces, it is appropriate that the FAO is showcasing the virtues of such a fascinating crop.
Pulses mean little to many people, but we all know about dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas. All of these products are common varieties of pulses. Pulses are known to have high protein and fibre content, and are low in fat. Sounds like the perfect food, doesn’t it? Indeed, pulses are often referred to as a “super food”.  Read more

Fresh Connections: The pilot season of a rural food hub (U Minn)

(Report Dec 2015 – 1.4 MB)

The diversity of perspectives that advisory committee members brought to the table ensured that decisions were examined from the different lenses of business, community health, and community development. The targeted expertise of the advisory committee’s grower and buyer members was also critical in the process, because it kept decisions rooted in stakeholder needs. In addition, the advisory committee kept planning firmly grounded in reality by challenging assumptions. Read more

Sustainable Pathways: Natural Capital Accounting (FAO)

Natural capital is the foundation of economies. Businesses, and agriculture in particular, depend on natural capital to be viable. However, in the current business model, natural capital has been largely neglected; it is ‘economically invisible’. As a result, we are witnessing the over-exploitation of our finite natural capital through climate change, soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity and wild habitats such as forests and wetlands. The degradation of natural capital imposes external costs on society and future generations. These costs can be better understood and addressed by accounting for natural capital. Read more

Natural Capital Impacts in Agriculture: Supporting Better Business Decision-making (FAO Report 2015)

This study provides stakeholders with an indication of the true magnitude of the economic and natural capital costs associated with commodity production, and present a framework that can be used to measure the net environmental benefits associated with different agricultural management practices. … To achieve this objective, Trucost has worked with FAO on two different types of analysis, utilising both Trucost data and models, as well as FAO data, to deliver:

  • A global, commodity-based “materiality” approach to assess the natural capital impacts caused by the production of four crops – maize, rice, soybean and wheat – and four livestock commodities – beef (from cattle), milk (from cattle), pork and poultry.
  • A set of four case studies focusing on different agri-commodities, exploring the trade-offs that exist between adopting different farming practices.

Read more

Announcing Farm 2.0 – A sustainable food hackerspace

OFN break upFarm 2.0 is a new project that explores how internet and communication technologies can be used in Canada’s sustainable food movement to optimize traditional agricultural practices, enable effective networks and facilitate policy change.

Smaller scaled organic and ecological producers are trying to build community around their farms and squeeze out a living in a landscape where farms keep getting bigger, products are more distant, retail is more consolidated and marketing is laden with ‘green washing’. These producers are being supported by ethically-minded consumers, academics and policy-makers. A diverse ecosystem of sustainable food hubs and networks, oriented toward building food systems that are more local, fair and green is coalescing in Canada.

To date, Internet and communication technologies have not figured prominently in forging food system solutions, and the intersection of technology and sustainable food is an under-developed area. One reason for this is that ecological and organic producers have historically favoured low technological, traditional, hands-on and artisanal practices.  But Theresa Schumilas, who recently joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems as a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow,  thinks that these  ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ worlds have much in common. An organic farmer herself,  Schumilas wonders if there are ways emerging technologies might open up new spaces for us to imagine and realize radically different practices and make shifts to more sustainable food systems.

Theresa is friend-raising and fund-raising to establish a sustainable food and technology ‘hackerspace’ or ‘lab’ that enables connections and collaboration between Canada’s emerging food hubs/networks and designers, programmers and technologists. She calls the project  ‘Farm 2.0’ to signal an extension of ‘Web 2.0’, which generally refers to how the world wide web has transitioned from being a collection of individual web sites with static information, to the web as a network of interactive computer platforms and applications. Farm 2.0 and Web 2.0 alike signal ethics such as democratization, empowerment, citizenship, sovereignty and protection of both the cyber and terrestrial commons.

In the last few years there has been an explosion of primarily proprietary software packages and web-based applications that are designed to help smaller scaled farmers with marketing.  Theresa has been interviewing ecological farmers about their use of these various programs and notes that their experiences are mixed.  “On one hand, farmers appreciate having help with sales logistics like inventory management and invoicing,  but at the same time,  they are looking for something more. This first generation of on-line marketplaces doesn’t seem to reflect the value placed on the commons that motivates many ecological farmers.”  When you think about it,  what has been happening in sustainable food software,  mirrors what has been happening in the seed industry. Technological ‘solutions’ have mined the knowledge built in the sustainable food movement over the past 30 years,  encoded that experience into a variety of internet-based applications, and sold it back to the farmers and food hubs who originated it. While the sustainable food movement has been focusing on seed sovereignty and building the ecological commons, its cyber commons is being privatized.

The foundation for a Farm 2.0 hackerspace that ‘saves code’ just like seeds,  already exists. Two years ago, in Australia, The Open Food Foundation (OFF) established itself  as a registered charity in order to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems. The Foundation focuses on bringing together farmers, food hubs and developers in a global network that facilitates open-source, non-proprietary technological innovation toward building more sustainable food systems. Their first project was the development and global launch of a technology platform called Open Food Network (OFN), that offers a way for sustainable food hubs, networks, producers and related food enterprises to link and build connections across local, regional, provincial, national and global scales. One of Theresa’s projects is to put this platform to the service of Canada’s growing sustainable food movement.

Open Food Network (OFN) is a non-proprietary, open-source, online platform. Using a set of intuitive and flexible tools, this multi-purpose software serves as a directory, communication hub and logistics platform that enables relationships among farmers, consumers, food hubs and other food enterprises. On one hand, it is an on-line marketplace. At local scales, it helps eaters find, buy, and learn about sustainable food, and helps producers and food hubs with supply chain logistics. However, the platform is more than a set of marketing tools and differs from other proprietary e-commerce platforms in important ways. OFN is a space that helps isolated sustainable food projects link, learn, and build peer-to-peer networks across scales in order to grow and strengthen a global resilient food movement. Under the oversight of the global foundation (Open Food Network), a community of coders, developers, producers, food hubs and others work to continually improve the platform and proliferate its use using charitable funding as well as reinvestment of revenues.

Since the launch of OFN two years ago, food communities around the world have been licensed and mentored by OFF to use this platform. There are now 25 networks using the platform in Australia, 20 in the UK, 2 in Norway, and teams are currently launching in South Africa, France, the US and (with this project) Canada.

theresa in front of canningTheresa will be updating the Nourishing Communities site regularly, but if you want to be involved in her research,  or if you have some ideas to share,  please email her.

Diversity and Sustainability of Food Systems

(Diversité et durabilité des systèmes alimentaires)

If you are in France next month, l’Institut des régions chaudes de Montpellier SupAgro will host a multi-disciplinary series of seminars on sustainable food systems from October 9 – 24. Speakers include Nicolas Bricas and Olivier de Schutter. The series is sponsored by the UNESCO Chair in Global Food Systems, Montpellier, SupAgro, member of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems International Advisory Committee.

For more information, please contact Alison Blay-Palmer at

Alimentation : Vers de nouveaux modes de consommation ?

nonameL’Institut des régions chaudes, Montpellier SupAgro et la Chaire UNESCO «Alimentations du Monde» ont mis en ligne les vidéos de colloque annuel du 31 janvier dernier : “Alimentation : vers de nouveaux modes de consommation ?”

La consommation alimentaire des ménages est identifiée comme un enjeu majeur en matière de durabilité, notamment pour réduire les impacts des activités humaines sur l’environnement et améliorer la santé des populations. On reconnaît également de plus en plus l’importance des comportements domestiques, après achat.


The UNESCO Chair on World Food Systems has posted the videos from the third edition of its annual conference, “Towards new patterns of consumption” (January 31st, 2014), which explored the food system at the scale of individual.

Food consumption is identified as a major challenge in terms of sustainability, including reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and improve the health of populations. This raises the question of possible incentives (and their effectiveness) in changing food consumption patterns. What are the levers and brakes that can intervene in supporting practice changes? What is its acceptability by consumers? What types of alternative models participate in change? 

Crowdsourcing Sustainable Social Ventures to Link Rural and Urban Well-being

BEEBBEEB, Hives and Local Networks of Empowerment

We believe that to tackle the global issue of food insecurity in a sustainable way it is vital to connect rural and urban communities on low incomes. BEEB is essentially a model of information and organisation that links rural and urban well-being. The two communities escape food insecurity together. Read more

BEEB connects a cooperative of small-holder farmers directly with the slum dwellers using two simple parts: basic cold storage facilities and a mobile phone order and payment system.

Vote for BEEB online! Only 19 days left…


Hult Prize Global On-line Competition

The theme of the 2013 Hult Prize is global food security and will focus on how to get safe, sufficient, affordable and easily accessible food to the 200 million people who live in urban slums – a challenge personally selected by former US President Clinton. Student teams will be charged with developing a sustainable social venture that can accomplish the objective by 2018. View all of the videos for the online competition on the Hult Prize Facebook site.


Fortnightly Feast – vol. 6.2 (Sustainable Food Systems)

Does your health insurance company support your local farmer?
CSA wellness rebates boost local food systems and increase sustainable agricultural practices … while giving consumers a little extra pull in shaping our national food supply.  Maybe policymakers will take note. Read more


Local Farmers Plant Seeds for Sustainable Food Hub in Central Vermont
The mission of the Farm-to-Table program is to provide universal access of locally grown foods through education, marketing and distribution.  Read more

Value-Added Food at the Mad River Food Hub
What products do local restaurants, retailers, schools and hospitals regularly use? Among these products, where do they value freshness and quality most? Of these products, can we reconstruct them with the local ingredients presented to us from our initial question?
Read more

Simcoe County Feasibility Study: Regional Food Distribution Hub
See the Stakeholder Focus Group Day’s presentation [pdf], including information about the project and feedback provided on barriers and solutions.

Community Infrastructure

Cooperative Groceries: Is this the Future of Community Food Retail?
Imagine shopping at a grocery store that only carries local products with prices set by members of the community, rather than a corporation. Read more

We envision The Mustard Seed becoming a beautiful place to shop, a place that promotes food access, connection between local producers and consumers, and a vibrant sense of community. Read more

The West End food Co-op will: Promote co-operative values and ownership; Act as a catalyst for local food security by coordinating community driven food initiatives; and Provide the local community with a full-service grocery store that focuses on selling products that are ecologically sustainable, local and healthy, such as fair trade and organic. Read more

Food Systems Approaches

First Nations Development Institute Awards $375,000 to 10 Native Food-System Projects under the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), which addresses issues confronting tribes and Native communities as they seek to strengthen the food system in their communities, improve health and nutrition, and build food security. Read more

Bioregion Food System Study
Led by Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture, the three-year initiative -the world’s first bio-region study aiming at increasing food security- will lay out a plan for stakeholders and governments in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Sea to Sky Corridor to create a regional food system. Read more

The Sustainable Food Cities Network is an alliance of public, private and third sector organisations that believe in the power of food as a vehicle for driving positive change and that are committed to promoting sustainable food for the benefit of people and the planet. Read more


Urban and peri-urban food: two discussions

The SUPURBFOOD project ( is looking to identify experiences from the global South and North with recycling of nutrients, waste and water in urban and peri-urban agriculture, short chain delivery of food in urban and peri-urban areas, and multifunctional agriculture in urban and peri-urban areas in order to enrich South-North exchange and collaboration.  We are specifically interested in innovative experiences – with a special focus on the type of business models that were applied, the role of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and their sustainability.

Read more

A Community Resilience Guide

released today, January 31, 2013:


Rebuilding the Foodshed


How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems

by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Changing our foodscapes raises a host of questions. How far away is local? How do you decide the size and geography of a regional foodshed? How do you tackle tough issues that plague food systems large and small—issues like inefficient transportation, high energy demands, and rampant food waste? How do you grow what you need with minimum environmental impact? And how do you create a foodshed that’s resilient enough if fuel grows scarce, weather gets more severe, and traditional supply chains are hampered?

Read the full release

Empty words won’t fill hungry stomachs

There is good reason to be sceptical about the new initiatives coming out of Davos targeting smallholder farmers.


David Nally and Bhaskar Vira in Al Jazeera English.