Alison Blay-Palmer

In Progress Graduate & PDF Students

Assessments of RUAF projects: Impacts and lessons learned

Laine Young, PhD Student
Assessments of RUAF projects: Impacts and lessons learned

Laine joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems’ Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) Partnership in September of 2016. She will be conducting assessments of RUAF (Resources for Urban Agriculture Foundation) projects to identify impacts and lessons learned from their work in the Global South (http://www.ruaf.org/). Her analysis will also compare across projects to identify good practices as an opportunity to improve work in communities as well as theory. Her doctoral research is enriched through her research on the Food By Ward project in Toronto and consulting work with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

Research for the Social Economy of Food initiative at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

Jennifer Marshman, PhD Student
Research for the Social Economy of Food initiative at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

Building on her experience both as an academic and community leader, Jennifer’s doctoral research will integrate across nature-human and youth-elder boundaries to create better-connected communities. Her work will allow us to understand pollinator gardens as connective spaces for people through/with nature and the way that gardens can catalyze collective action, social capital and networks in neighbourhoods. Her work offers the opportunity to increase learning and reduce the distance people have to nature. It also provides spaces for youth to interact with elders, reducing the isolation people may experience as they grow older. Using a whole-of-community approach, Marshman will extend the theoretical landscape to bring a broader conceptualization to the social sciences. As such this work represents a genuinely interdisciplinary approach both in theory and practice. Marshman’s research is being undertaken through the SSHRC-funded Social Economy of Food initiative at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

Open Food Network Canada project

Theresa Schumilas, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
Open Food Network Canada project

Dr. Schumilas is leading the Open Food Network Canada project, an open source online platform that got its start in Australia. The project is building a collaborative community of programmers/coders to support sustainable and fair food systems initiatives. The platform offers opportunities for online markets as well as the creation of networks.

The social economy of food: Informal, under-recognized contributions to community prosperity and resilience

Dr. Phil Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
The social economy of food: Informal, under-recognized contributions to community prosperity and resilience

Dr. Mount is the co-lead for the SSHRC-funded “The social economy of food: Informal, under-recognized contributions to community prosperity and resilience”. He brings with him a deep commitment to scholarship as evidenced by his critical, thoughtful writing, most recently, in the edited volume ‘Conversations in Food Studies’. His groundbreaking work through Project SOIL (Shared Opportunities on Institutional Land) and with Just Food Ottawa has earned him increasing recognition in both communities of practice and scholarship as a leading thinker and practitioner of sustainable food systems.

Food Security and Climate Change in the Northwest Territories

Andrew Spring, PhD Candidate
Food Security and Climate Change in the Northwest Territories

With a background in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Management in the Bay of Fundy and degrees in Environmental Engineering, Andrew has now turned his attention to food security in the Northwest Territories. His work will explore challenges and opportunities at the intersection of food security and food sovereignty, climate change and the pressures exerted on country food and traditional economic activity. His work will include the community of Kakisa as well as communities in the Sahtu region.

Local Food & Sustainability: A City-Regional Approach

Lori Stahlbrand, PhD Candidate
Local Food & Sustainability: A City-Regional Approach

As part of a very active career, most recently as founder and President of Local Food Plus, Lori joined Laurier in September 2012 as PhD candidate. She will use her time at Laurier to explore opportunities and challenges at the nexus of regional geography, focusing on regional food economies and city regions; the intersection of food and sustainability; and, food and social movements. Lori Stahlbrand received a two-year SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.

Exploring Dimensions of the Community Nutrition Worker Program in Region of Waterloo

Paula Bryk, MES
Exploring Dimensions of the Community Nutrition Worker Program in Region of Waterloo

With obesity rates in the Region of Waterloo surpassing the provincial average for obesity in each age category and a foodscape colonized by added-value processed pseudo foods, the need for nutrition knowledge and food skilling is evident.  Cooking skills and food knowledge are most often learned from mothers and from cooking classes at school.  With the absence of cooking skills in the Ontario school curriculum, and the deskilling of the population at large by the agro-food industry, it is not surprising that many eaters neither understand the complexities of the food system nor know how to cook from scratch. A survey of self-rated food skill levels in Waterloo Region revealed that confidence varied with the type of skill being assessed and it was generally found that simple food preparation techniques were fairly prevalent, whereas skills involving more complex food knowledge such as adjusting a recipe to make it healthier or preserving fruit and vegetables were limited.  Not knowing how to cook can limit food choice and can make it more difficult to maintain a nutritionally complete diet.

Completed Graduate & PDF Students

Building Sustainability for Costal Zone Agricultural Systems in Bangladesh

Byomkesh Talukder, PhD Candidate
Building Sustainability for Costal Zone Agricultural Systems in Bangladesh

Byomkesh joins Laurier from Queen’s where he completed his Masters in Environmental Studies. For his PhD, Byomkesh will be elaborating on his Masters thesis “Sustainability of Changing Agricultural Systems in the Coastal Zone of Bangladesh”. Building on analytical tools, including Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, he is interested in developing metrics for assessing agricultural sustainability in coastal regions of Bangladesh. Byomkesh holds a doctoral SSHRC grant. Byomkesh Talukder was awarded a Joseph Bombardier SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.

Gardening with Gramsci? Analysis Edible Gardens as an Agrifood Initiative

Nicole Holzapfel, MA
Gardening with Gramsci? Analysis Edible Gardens as an Agrifood Initiative

Agrifood Initiatives, such as edible gardens, farmers’ markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), represent a response to the dominant commodity food system. By focusing on small-scale food system participants in general and gardeners in particular, this thesis seeks to understand the performance of AFIs as they are connected to the commodity food system. Interviews were used to assess the potential of gardens to help change the food system. This thesis employs Antonio Gramsci’s concept of cultural and counter-hegemony and the concept of scale to analyse the commodity food system, alternative initiatives in general, and edible gardens in particular. Interview results are used to explore whether edible gardens have counter-hegemonic potential, whether they are able to further food system change and how their performance could be improved. The findings point to how the integration of scale can help us understand opportunities for counter-hegemony.

Evaluation of Sustainable Marine Product Labels and Eco-Certification Programs

Mike Nagy, MES
Evaluation of Sustainable Marine Product Labels and Eco-Certification Programs

Multiple stresses experienced by community based wild fisheries have resulted in dramatic declines in fish stocks.  Much of this has been a result of poor fishing practices that result in, for example: overharvesting, habitat destruction, and non-target species mortality.  Compounding these ecological challenges, there has been a dramatic decline in global small-scale fisheries for several decades due, in part, to policy shifts and economic drivers that favour large-scale resource exploitation. In an attempt to revitalise this industry currently seen as environmentally unsustainable by many critics and a growing percentage of the general population, (Worm et al 2006), eco-labels and other types of environmental approval certification programs have emerged.  A key goal is to offer consumers real or perceived sustainable fish products.  This thesis will evaluate the relevance and legitimacy of such certification programs with the overall goals of determining whether these programs are: 1. Effective in preserving fish stocks; 2. Endorsed by community supported fisheries; and, 3. Themselves legitimate and adequate.  In simple terms, the fundamental question is, are these labels ‘greenwashing’ activities or are they actually delivering benefits to both fishers/fishing communities and the related ecosystem/fish stocks as well?  This question will be answered not only from an environmental perspective but also from a social justice/socio-economic aspect.   More detail and specific questions are outlined further in this proposal however it is important to note that this thesis will be approaching this issue from a Canadian perspective and seeks to determine what resources if any should be invested in current eco-labelling programs or if an alternate course of action is more appropriate.

An Apple A Day: Exploring Food and Agricultural Knowledge and Skill among Children in southern Ontario

Shannon Kornelsen, MES
An Apple A Day: Exploring Food and Agricultural Knowledge and Skill among Children in southern Ontario

While the literature on food has somewhat addressed rudimentary food skills and their importance in the creation and maintenance of a healthy population, there remains a serious lack of research into the importance of food and agricultural skills and knowledge transference to children, especially given the rise in diet-related illnesses. This study focuses on the perceived importance of food and agricultural education initiatives, as well as the opportunities and barriers that exist within the elementary school classroom to incorporate food and agricultural topics, in the context of southern Ontario, specifically Wellington County. Drawing on Wilkin’s concept of ‘food citizenship’ as a desirable end goal of alternative food movements, food and agricultural education presence in the curriculum is researched for its potential contribution to healthy, active communities.

The research highlights experiences and insights through key informant interviews with teachers, parents, School Board employees, nutritionists, and people involved in relevant community organizations, to determine the current role that formal secondary-level public educational institutions, and the educators within them, play in the dissemination of food and agricultural knowledge and skill.  More specifically, the questions asked focus on what opportunities exist for teachers to enable and assist their students in becoming food citizens, and specifically: in what ways does the provincial curriculum as it currently exists, lend support to teachers, who can then enable students to become food citizens? And perhaps most importantly, do food skills and knowledge contribute to the holistic development of young people?

This study used a qualitative approach, through the use of key informant interviews and curriculum analysis. Research findings indicate that food and agricultural education is seen as important to respondents, and that there are a number of complex opportunities for and barriers to including these topics in classrooms and encouraging greater food citizenship in young people.

Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty: the Windermere Valley Paradox

Alison Bell, University of Adelaide, MA Gastronomy
Food Insecurity in the Land of Plenty:  the Windermere Valley Paradox

The shift in thinking about land use, from its importance for both its rural beauty and food production, to its attractiveness for purely recreational purposes, has brought about a marked change to the sustainability and social fabric of the Windermere Valley in South-eastern British Columbia.  Those looking for a place to “get away from it all” are arriving in droves and the sudden increase in population and the seemingly unchecked growth in the area has been far-reaching.   It is the transformation from agri-culture to recre-culture in the Windermere Valley and the resultant impact on local food security that was the motivation for this paper.

Urban Agriculture in Kingston: Present and Future Potential for Re-Localization and Sustainability

Sunny Lam, MES, Queen’s University
Urban Agriculture in Kingston: Present and Future Potential for Re-Localization and Sustainability

Urbanization and the globalization of the food system are causing social, environmental, economic and political problems worldwide.  Rapid urbanization is increasing environmental degradation and food insecurity.  Urban agriculture is one tool for sustainable development that has the potential to provide food or related services within or on the edges of urban areas.  The goal of this research was to determine the current situation and the future potential of urban agriculture in Kingston.  A literature review, questionnaires, interviews and case studies were used to determine the perceptions of relevant stakeholders, barriers and ways to overcome those barriers.  Conservative estimates of urban agriculture's value to Kingston's environmental, social, community health, food security and economic dimensions were made through modeling.  Study participants demonstrated a relatively greater awareness of environmental and community benefits of urban agriculture compared to food security, health or economic benefits.  Modeling and calculations indicated that urban agriculture could contribute at least $190 to $860 million per year in positive environmental, health and economic benefits.  Modeling indicated that sourcing more local urban produced foods could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1300 to 14000 tonnes annually for 39 common fresh fruits and vegetables.  Urban agriculture could meet the fresh fruits and vegetables needs of up to 76% or more of the Kingston CMA population.  There appeared to be 5600 ha of area in the inner-city that could be used for food production.  Major challenges identified were perceptions of limited space, limited resources and education.  Recommendations to address these challenges are also provided.  Overall, urban agriculture has potential to contribute to sustainability in Kingston.