Food concerns us all. Systems of food production, distribution, and consumption are vast and vary widely in scale and impact, and have ramifications in every sphere of our lives and world. As global pressures stemming from resource development, energy supply, geo-politics, waste, health, climate, biodiversity loss, nutritional needs, economic models, certain agricultural practices and poverty push up against each other and the carrying capacity of the planet, food security and long-term sustainability are of growing concern, attracting attention from diverse actors in society. Universities, as centres for research and social change, have an opportunity and an obligation to develop and implement transitions to a sustainable system. The Concordia Food Systems Project has been formed to deepen this inquiry into the nature of the food systems at and beyond Concordia and to explore how they can be made more sustainable.
The Concordia Food Systems Project brings together students, faculty and staff to facilitate a transition to a more sustainable food system for all. We will achieve this through:
· Building our own understanding of the food systems operating throughout society;
· Reconnecting campus community members with these food systems;
· Convening students, faculty, and staff for healthy dialogue and discussion around food;
· Undertaking research and action projects; and
· Making policy recommendations.
- Establish picture of food systems and food security issues at Concordia
- Develop research questions to improve understanding
- Improve food sustainability (food security and sovereignty) at Concordia
- Educate the Concordia community about food issues and solutions
Important work has been done on aspects of the food systems at Concordia and opportunities for sustainability, such as through the triennial Campus Sustainability Assessments (2003, 2006, 2009) and various academic papers at the undergraduate and graduate levels, notably Sean Bennell's 2008 thesis for the Masters in Public Policy and Public Administration (Geography option) which focused on a Community Food Security (CFS; See glossary for definition) approach to farm-to-university development at Concordia. The Food Systems Project is building on this work and seeking to pursue recommendations for further study and action made through such work.
A framework particularly interesting for the Project is that of Gail Feenstra, a Food Systems Analyst at the University of California-Davis, who in 2002 proposed that four kinds of community space be created to address issues relating to food security:
- Social Space: where 'social capital' is created. This usually means opportunities for diverse people in communities to meet and talk, listen to each others' concerns and views, plan together, problem-solve, question, and learn to speak a common language.
- Political Space: where efforts to create food system pilot projects or models become institutionalized through policy. This can include policy-making at various levels, from school districts or universities instigating farm-to-institution programs, to governments enacting legislation to protect farmland from development.
- Intellectual space: where a vision of a sustainable food system is conceptualized and articulated within a local context. Brings together multiple disciplines and community perspectives in creating a vision helps to ground a project, especially when personnel, economic, policy or other changes occur.
- Economic space: where attempts are made to find ways to recirculate local financial capital within the local economy. It can also mean exploring outside sources to fund projects.
As we develop our projects, we consider how they fit into this framework in providing different ways of thinking and acting around food security and sustainability.
We are also considering food at Concordia through the following lens, proposed by the Youth Partnership for Sustainable Development:
- Management: management of food services (in favour of the control of food outlets by student associations or cooperatives
- Operations: ecological footprint of operations: presence of reusable dishes, waste management, contaminants and pollution, lifecycles, plastics and Styrofoam, food waste, equipment efficiency, etc.
- Food supply: sourcing (local, organic, fair trade) and food quality (eliminate unhealthy food, provide vegetarian options)
- Community: support of social causes (e.g. providing surpluses of food to organizations), renting kitchens and dishes for events, integration of disabled or disadvantaged people into personnel
Financial support for the Food Systems Project has been provided by Sustainable Concordia, the Global Futures Lab, The David O'Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, The Concordia Student Union, the Office of Research and the Sustainability Action Fund.
Our logo was designed by Emily Paris. Emily lives and works in Montreal. She received her BFA from Concordia University, majoring in Design Art. Her work focuses on combining hand-made and digital graphics, through the exploration of print based processes such as screen-printing.