Research Excellence

Creating sustainable food sources

Photo: LFS Learning Centre Dr. Hannah Wittman (left) with LFS master’s student Jessica Dennis
Dr. Hannah Wittman (left) with LFS master’s student Jessica Dennis. Photo: LFS Learning Centre

 

Thirteen per cent of Canadians do not have reliable access to adequate amounts of safe, good-quality, nutritious food. Globally, about one in nine people are undernourished. With the world’s population set to grow to nine billion people by 2050, creating sustainable food sources and equitable distribution systems have become one of the most pressing issues of our time.

UBC’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is working to fundamentally transform local and global food systems towards a more sustainable, food secure future. The Centre, located at the UBC Farm on the Point Grey campus, is a living laboratory for students, researchers and community groups to explore and exemplify healthy and sustainable food systems.

“Food sovereignty means that everyone should have access to sufficient amounts of healthy and culturally appropriate food, and they should also be able to have a role in designing an ecologically sustainable and equitable food system,” says Dr. Hannah Wittman, Academic Director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm. “Regional food security is a growing concern in relation to increasing ecological and economic challenges within our globalized food system.”

Recognizing that the solutions to feeding the world’s population will be social as much as they will be technical, many of the Centre’s programs focuses on transforming people’s relationships with the land. This includes a variety of community initiatives, such as FarmWonders, a fun educational program that allows children ages six to 14 years to explore the wonders of science at the farm and discover the mysteries of the food that they eat. The Centre also offers UBC students and local farmers experiential learning opportunities, including an eight-month Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture. The community can benefit from the fruits of their labour by purchasing fresh and nutritious food at the UBC Farm Markets.

The Centre’s capacity to promote sustainable food systems locally and globally will be greatly increased through a historic $1 million partnership with the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., a founding gift of $1 million from RBC, and $2 million from Ratana and Arran Stephens, co-Founders and co-CEO’s of Nature’s Path. Their investments will help create a new state-of-the-art teaching and research facility on the farm.

The UBC Farm building will double the number of students that the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and other faculties can educate at UBC Farm, and significantly expand UBC Farm curriculum and community programs, such as training programs for local farmers and Indigenous initiatives. By training and educating the next generation of leaders in the food industry, the Centre aims to create a ripple effect in local and global communities.

UBC alumnus Colin Dring is one of those leaders. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Agro-ecology, he became the Executive Director of the Richmond Food Security Society. He attributes his coursework at UBC Farm with inspiring him to take the lessons he learned there into communities to help address local food security issues.

“I saw farmland used in innovative and novel ways to ground students in the science underpinning food systems, and to engage our intellect with the concepts that we were learning in our classes. My UBC Farm experience became embedded in a career building capacity to change our food systems. Soil is a powerful learning experience.”

Thanks to the UBC Farm Building gifts, more future leaders will have that experience.