FAS students tackle local food security issues

A group of fourth year environmental studies students were challenged by Professor Kristen Lowitt to address food security issues within the local Kingston community as part of the Special Topics in Environmental Science course.

The result was six experiential learning projects that examined the impacts of COVID on the local food system, developed a local food strategy for Kingston, created lesson plans for food literacy, and developed land tenure models for Indigenous food sovereignty.

The four local groups the students worked with were Garden Angels, All Our Relations Land Trust, Loving Spoonful, and the KFL&A Food Policy Council.

“For me it’s trying to connect theory and practice for the students,” Dr. Lowitt explains. “They learn how concerns, theories, issues around food justice are expressed within the work these local groups are doing. The students are doing more than just reading about food injustice – they are applying what they learned to develop new policies and processes with community partners.”

Dr. Lowitt’s research goals are directed towards working with communities to build just and sustainable food systems in rural and coastal settings and her research approach is based in partnership-building and co-production of research and knowledge with communities.

The six projects included:

  • The Effects of Covid-19 on the Food Economy: Investigating Current Vulnerabilities in the Canadian Food System - Sofia Moraes, Thomas Perry, and Zhan Li.
  • Improving Kingston Food Literacy: Accompanying Report for Garden Angels Lesson Plans - Breanna McCarty-Scott and Rachel Ferguson.
  • Comprehensive Review of Indigenous-led Land Trusts in Canada - Emily Pope and Anna Brabender
  • Local Food Advocacy Project: The Impacts of Urban Agriculture on Food Access, Social Well-Being, and Local Economic Development - Danielle Mexner and Ani Marcus.
  • Local food strategy literature review - Syd Campbell, Vesta Behboodi, and Aaron Teper.
  • Improving the Local KFL&A Food System Post-Pandemic – Emily Armstrong and Caitlin Hayes.

 “ENSC 480 provided the unique opportunity of connecting learning from inside the classroom to outside in the real world,” says Brabender. “Working on a project alongside a community partner resulted in an engaging process and rewarding result. It was great to know that the effort my classmates and I were putting into our coursework would go on to benefit the community outside of Queen’s and have a lasting impact.”

At the beginning of the course, the four partners presented their ideas to the students and the students created groups based on what project they were most interested in. Dr. Lowitt says the students enjoyed the regular engagement with the partners and learning more about their community.

“Participating in this food security research initiative was an excellent opportunity for Food Policy Council members to benefit from fresh eyes on a critical issue -- the effects of the pandemic on food systems, and proposals for change aimed at increasing food security in the future,” says Dianne Dowling, Chair, KFL&A Food Policy Council. “The literature reviews conducted by the students give our Council members access to a broad range of reports and articles useful to our advocacy for increased food security and for a more resilient and equitable food system.”

the program based on interest from community partners.

“This course is important for the students and important for the community. Our students have a lot to offer when it comes to solving some of these problems around food justice and food insecurity. Several of these organizations are built mainly on dedicated volunteers and they don’t have the capacity for this academic work. We are filling a need.”

Learn more about the food justice community research projects on Dr. Lowitt’s webpage