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     Scrolling through social media these days can make it seem like everyone is at home learning new recipes and baking bread from scratch with their families. What it fails to show is the effect of the pandemic on those that are or may become food insecure, those that do not have a good relationship with food, and those that do not know where to start. With our current schedules and habits in disarray, it can be hard to maintain a consistent and balanced diet. Whether reduced income or lack of income is making it hard to purchase healthy food, fear of going out to the grocery store is looming, or anxiety eating is creeping in, you can be sure of one thing, you are not alone.

 

     Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is extremely important but not always possible, especially while following physical distancing recommendations. Reach out to those who can not only help with accessing nutritious food options, but also those that can contribute to a positive food environment for you. Many dieticians and councillors can work virtually with you, your skills and what you have available to help you through this uncertain time. Listening to your body's natural cues and looking for supports that can help you develop healthy eating habits is an important way to practice self-care and improve your relationship with food right now.

 

Local resources have been provided below for those in need of food or support:

 

Food Delivery Services: https://guelphcoronavirus.ca/order-food/

 

University Wellness: https://wellness.uoguelph.ca/services/health-services/all-health-services/dietitian-services

 

Counselling Services (online): https://wellness.uoguelph.ca/counselling/

 

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If you are interested in a fun way to learn about food security, or just a way to connect with those around you this weekend, the Feeding 9 Billion Card Game is now availble in a Print and Play version!

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     With the widespread continuation of social distancing recommendations, we realize that it is difficult for classrooms to share resources among students. That's why we've been working toward making our learning tools available online, starting with our graphic novel, #foodcrisis.

 

     This depiction of a world that has experienced a major drought explores the politics, science, and ethical questions that surround an international event of this magnitude. The story is based on historical events that have caused disruptions to our food systems, like the Dust Bowl and the Great Irish Potato Famine, and is supported by 13 background essays on the research that went into writing the novel. At the same time unsettling and somewhat reassuring, the plot draws connections to current events while championing the resiliency of the human spirit that has helped us push through in challenging times. What lessons can be learned from food crises of the past, and what can we learn from our situation now?

 

Download a pdf copy of #foodcrisis

 

Coming Soon

 

     We are working to make even more of our resources available online in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for a printable version of our card game, as well as two new podcast series! If you would like to be notified when new resources are released, we welcome you to join our mailing list below:

 

Join our mailing list

 

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     From farm to plate, anywhere from one third to one half of all food is never consumed. This issue is critical for achieving a sustainable agricultural system because of the huge strain modern agricultural production places on our planet. As almost a billon people are food insecure (having inadequate access to, or resources for, nutritious and culturally-appropriate foods), reducing food waste is becoming increasingly important. Recent FAO reports show the number is more accurately 820 million people and increasing 1. It is critical to consider these numbers because every time food is wasted, food is being denied from the chronically hungry 2.

 

     As it currently stands, food waste models predict that the volume of food wasted is expected to grow 1.9% yearly, from 2015 to 2030 3. The limited activism and policy work in effect are not efficiently reducing the severity of the problem. Solutions to food waste do exist. However, a significant change in society’s attitude is desperately needed 2.

 

     Several agencies and advocates have presented a variety of ideas to alleviate the amount of food that is wasted. One possible model to follow was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency 2.  The Food Waste Pyramid is a system designed to upcycle food waste to prevent it from entering the landfill. The system works from the top down  - the top of the pyramid being the number one way to reduce food waste, and the bottom being what should never be done with food waste. Starting from the top of the pyramid, the strategies they suggest are as follows:

 

  1. Reduce food waste at the production level on the farm;
  2. Feed people with food that is still edible but would otherwise be thrown in the landfill;
  3. Feed animals what humans cannot eat;
  4. Use food waste to create energy through anaerobic digestion technology;
  5. Compost food waste so the nutrients can return back to the soil to grow more food.

 

The last level of the pyramid is where food waste goes to the landfill. However, this step should never happen because when food is put into the landfill it will decompose in the absence of oxygen, producing methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-three times more powerful than carbon dioxide 2.

 

a graphic showing the steps of the Food Waste Pyramid, designed byt he Environmental Protection Agency

Food Waste Pyramid designed by the Environmental Protection Agency, adapted by Nathalie Amyotte (2020)

 

To achieve a sustainable agricultural system, substantial change must be accomplished. The global food system as a whole must be re-evaluated which includes tackling the significant issue of food waste and the challenges surrounding it. Although one third of food is currently wasted, new approaches and innovations are constantly being developed. Change can happen.

 

 

Supporting Articles:

 

  1. FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO. (2019). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019. Safeguarding against economic slowdowns and downturns. Rome: FAO.
  2. Wasted: The Story of Food Waste. Directed by Nari Kye & Anna Chai. Zero Point Zero Production Inc., 2017. CBC, https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1164399683579.

  3. Hegnsholt, E., Unnikrishnan,  S., Pollmann-Larsen, M., Askelsdottir, B., & Gerard, M. (2018, August 20). Tackling the 1.6-Billion-Ton Food Loss and Waste Crisis. BCG. https://www.bcg.com/en-ca/publications/2018/tackling-1.6-billion-ton-food-loss-and-waste-crisis.aspx.

  4. Foley, J. A., Ramankutty, N., Brauman, K. A., Cassidy, E. S., Gerber, J. S., Johnston, M., Johnston, M., et al. (2011). Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature, 478 (7369), 337-342. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10452

  5. Mateo-Sagasta, J., Marjani, S., Turral, H., Burke, J. (2017). Water pollution from agriculture: a global review. Rome: FAO.

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The LINK Project is an exciting new interdisciplinary program that seeks to apply machine learning techniques to research in agriculture and food. The project aims to support critical issues around human health and a sustainable food supply.

 

 

The call for applications is now open!

 

 

This opportunity welcomes proposals from Canadian graduate students for 4-month projects connecting agriculture and food with artificial intelligence. Graduate students in AI are also invited to apply for Machine Learning Scientist positions, to be paired with the selected projects. Follow the link above for more information on how to apply!

 

Interested, but not quite sure how to frame your question to use AI? Take a look at this quick introduction to AI concepts.

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Listen to a review of the year's hottest topics on the FoodFarm Talk radio program, hosted by Feeding 9 Billion's Abdul-Rahim Abdulai and Emily Duncan.

 

 

Which agri-food issues made headlines in 2019?

 


FoodFarm Talk is an interactive program on food and farming that builds on the diverse research at the University of Guelph and the strong Ontario agri-food community, to inform listeners some of the wonderful work being done from farm to fork. The program celebrates the people, research, and work that shape the food we eat. Broadcast on radio Thursday 10:00 am on CFRU 93.3 FM in Guelph, ON, Canada, live on www.cfru.ca or podcast on Anchor, Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google Podcasts. Produced by Abdul-Rahim Abdulai, Emily Duncan, Paul Smith and Cameron Ogilvie.

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     In a world where around 1/3 of food produced is wasted, it almost seems paradoxical that hundreds of millions of individuals are living in food insecurity.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food waste as wholesome edible material intended for human consumption that is instead discarded, degraded, or lost. However, it can also encompass the by-products of food processing, the resources that go into growing the food, and even over-nutrition in some populations. But what exactly drives the creation of food waste?

 

     To no surprise, food waste originates from a complex network of factors. With the modernization of food systems, industrialization has allowed for the overproduction of food, while general economic growth has put us in a mindset that we can “afford” to waste food. Urbanization has detached us from rural farms, creating a disconnection within the farm-to-fork path. From a cultural perspective, some countries have stronger food traditions ingrained in their culture than others, resulting in differing attitudes towards food. For example, France places a large emphasis on the communal aspect of mealtimes, but these parts of the day are often rushed or disregarded in North America. Additionally, food waste is often generated as a by-product of governmental policies. Although necessary, policies for proper food quality testing and prevention of food health hazards can lead to a large amount of food being discarded.

 

An image depicting the food supply chain from raw materials to the consumer

Image taken from: Tzounis, A., Katsoulas, N., Bartzanas, T. & Kittas, C. (2017). Internet of Things in agriculture, recent advances and future challenges. Biosystems Engineering, 164(2017), 31-48.   doi:10.1016/j.biosystemseng.2017.09.007.

 

     A finding that I personally found interesting is how less developed countries produce more food waste in the earlier parts of the Food Supply Chain (FSC), while more developed countries produce more in the latter parts. Less developed countries experience a large portion of food waste at the agriculture and food processing level, which could be ameliorated through improved agricultural infrastructure, increased technological skills and knowledge, and more efficient storage. On the other hand, more developed countries struggle with food waste at the retail and consumption level. Although this pertains to problems with governmental policies, solving the issue requires cooperation from everyone to shift to more sustainable consumption patterns and practices.

 

So what can we do on an individual level to combat this issue?

  1. Better planning: if you plan your meals ahead of time and buy the amount you need and no more, you can prevent problems with having too much food in the house that ends up spoiling.
  2. Proper storage: learn how to best store your food to extend its shelf life. By handling food effectively, you can reduce food spoilage in your household.
  3. Increased awareness: simply knowing about the issue will cause you to be more conscious of the decisions you make in relation to food. Educate your peers and let’s tackle this issue together!

To learn more, check out these articles:

 

Papargyropoulou, E., Lozano, R., Steinberger, J. K., Wright, N., & Ujang, Z. B. (2014). The food waste hierarchy as a framework for the management of food surplus and food waste. Journal of Cleaner Production, 76(1), 106–115. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.04.020

 

Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106(2016), 110–123. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016

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      Food has been a defining issue of the 21st century. Research conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has shown that over 821 million people do not have adequate food to consume, although we currently produce enough food globally to feed the whole population. The current global food system privileges the wealthy, while the poor remain bound to a cyclical poverty trap. Flash forward to the year 2050, where the global population is now projected to reach 10 billion people. The question for the future then becomes, what will happen if political leadership continues to fail in providing an equitable food system for all, and how will we cope with the growing demands of a rising population, where demand for food will begin to outstrip supply?

 

     Today, there are approximately 2,200 kilocalories of food produced for every person daily. Although we currently produce the recommended average caloric intake for the world's population, there are a few major limitations to our global food system. One issue to recognize is that caloric intake does not necessarily reflect a healthy or nutritional diet. The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate (HHEP) tells us that humans should consume: 15 servings of fruits and vegetables, eight servings of whole grains, five servings of protein, and one serving of oil daily to have a nutritional diet.

 

(Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

 

      However, due to overproduction of certain food groups, the average individual’s diet consists of a high carbohydrates, fats, and sugar intake, which is likely to promote prevalence in cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The second issue pertains to climate variability and biodiversity loss due monoculture systems and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from meat production. If we continuously utilize croplands for monocultures and feed for our cattle industry, we could endanger species and reduce biodiversity which is needed as carbon sinks to sequester carbon dioxide (CO2). Lastly, in terms of GHG emissions from food production, the most significant impacts come from the meat, poultry, and pork industry. Currently, livestock production contributes to 2.90 GT CO2e/yr. The number of gigatons of CO2 will continue to grow, as the demand of food begins to rise due to population increases. Therefore, there is a need for alternative and sustainable pathways for our food production, as the longer our society waits, the more devastating the impacts of CO2 will be on our communities.

 

Assessing Future Pathways for Food Production

 

     The article When too much isn’t enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs? written by Krishna Bahadur, Evan Fraser and fellow researchers, suggests that there are three future scenarios to sustainably and nutritionally feed 10 billion people in 2050.

 

     The first scenario mentions the consumption of proteins but emphasizes the reduction of arable land that is allocated for the meat industry and meat alternatives. In this way, producing alternative sources of proteins such as insects, fungus, and algae can help decrease GHG emissions. The second scenario is to use scientific techniques and innovative farming practices to increase global fruit and vegetable production, which aligns with the recommendations of the HHEP. In order to do this in the most sustainable manner, vertical farming practices and indoor production facilities, would be best to minimize land use practice. The final scenario suggested is to reduce household food waste. This is important, as out of all the food waste that occurs globally, 20% is attributed to food that is not eaten in homes and is left to rot in landfills. If each person could reduce their waste at home, overall methane emissions would decrease.

 

     If more sustainable practices like the ones mentioned above are adopted, and if we move towards following the HHEP more closely, land use for whole grain, fat and oil, and sugar production would drastically decrease. Therefore, we need to take action and incorporate more plant-based proteins and fruits and vegetables into our diets. To end, we have the opportunity as a global community to make the required changes needed to make our world more sustainable for the coming years.

 

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a picture of the globe with a thermometer showing rising temperatures, a plant, and an impressed scientist

 

Due to climate change and the development of new technologies, scientists predict that we will be able to do agriculture in northern lands that have, until now, been unable to support farming. While the potential to bring down food costs in isolated northern communities and increase global food production could lead to improved food security, disturbing these previously unfarmed northern soils also has its risks. Learn more about the potential benefits and risks of introducing agriculture to the far north, and possible alternatives in the latest addition to our video series.

 

Watch our newest illustrated video to learn more!

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Part of the challenge of Feeding 9 Billion is ensuring everyone has equal access to the types of food that make up a healthy diet. However, although the world currently produces enough calories per day for everyone to eat a full diet, consumer patterns have led to a mismatch between the types of food we produce and the types of food we should eat. Explore the benefits of producing a more nutritious balance of foods and what we can do to influence this in the next installment of the Feeding 9 Billion video series.

 

Watch our newest illustrated video to learn more!

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The Feeding 9 Billion Card Game, winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Serious Play award, was recently featured on CTV News! Watch the story below to see how the game, designed to get students excited about agriculture, is being used in high school classrooms.

 

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