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Food Systems Planning in Cities: The Power of Engaging Citizens to Inform Urban Food Policy and Planning

April 22, 2021 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Speaker: Dr. Tammara Soma, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University

In her talk Dr Soma will discuss an innovative way to map “assets” in cities to inform food policy and planning decisions. Used by the “food system planning” community, food asset mapping is a tool used by planners, policymakers or academics to identify food assets, such as, for example, supermarkets, street vendors, and/or food banks. To date, food asset mapping has not included ecological and cultural assets important to food system resiliency. Further, what are mapped as “assets” may not reflect the lived experiences of marginalized communities. Tackling these concerns, Dr Soma will share the results of a Canadian study applying “citizen science” led food asset mapping with participants from Indigenous and diverse communities in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The study combined interdisciplinary methodologies including photovoice, a form of participatory action research that helps surface the voices and experiences of the participants in the mapping process through photography, to answer the following research questions:

1) how can a citizen science-led food asset mapping identify “hidden food infrastructures” such as spiritual, cultural, informal and ecological assets in the community? and

2) how can we innovate food asset mapping by integrating culturally relevant spatial tools such as photovoice to understand resident’s (in)access to food?

Findings from this study identified the importance of ecological knowledge both Indigenous and non-Indigenous in identifying natural food assets in urban centres, the importance of informal practices such as foraging, and the role of religious sites such as langars in improving food access for both Sikh and non-Sikh communities regardless of income. In applying a citizen science approach, the study showed that this new approach in food asset mapping can integrate diverse perspectives, leading to the identification and preservation of infrastructural (both formal and informal), cultural, ecological and spiritual food assets, and improved policies to ensure food system resiliency in British Columbia.

Dr Tammara Soma MCIP RPP is an Assistant Professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management (Planning programme) at Simon Fraser University and Research Director of the Food Systems Lab. Originally hailing from Indonesia, she conducts research on issues pertaining to food loss and waste (FLW), food system planning, food access, and the circular economy. Dr Soma is a Co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Food Waste, and co-founder of the International Food Loss and Food Waste Studies group, a global network of FLW researchers and practitioners. Dr Soma was selected as a committee member of the US National Academies of Science and co-authored the consensus study A National Strategy to Reduce Consumer Food Waste. She is registered professional planner.

The talk will be followed by an online Q&A session.

Please note this event will take online via Zoom. Attendees will need to have a Zoom account to access the webinar, a free account can be set up at registration.