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2020 Keynote and Invited Presenters – Urban Food Systems Symposium

2020 Keynote and Invited Presenters

2020 Invited Speakers

Jess Halliday, PhD
Opening Keynote Presenter

Session Title – Building climate-resilient urban and regional food systems

Abstract – There is no doubt that climate change is upon us and is wrecking havoc on our food systems. From chronic stresses such as droughts and prolonged low temperatures, to sudden shocks like hurricanes, floods, and raging wild fires, extreme events are already affecting food and nutrition security, and global stability.  

In this talk we will take a realistic look at the impacts of climate change on urban and regional food systems, including real-life examples of how catastrophes have caused crop failure, cut off supplies for local populations, and caused livelihoods to collapse.

Yet despite the grim evidence there are reasons to be hopeful. Through the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is growing international recognition of the need to safeguard food security from the impacts of climate change and climate related disasters.

And there are signs, in some places, of gradual realization that food must be included in resilience strategies — not least since Covid-19 laid bare the fragility of food systems across the world.

We will look at some of the policies, programs and actions that local and regional governments can put in place to increase the capacity of food systems actors to prevent, resist, absorb, adapt, respond and build back better from disasters.

Finally, we will consider key questions used by the FAO-RUAF City Region Food System Programme to assess existing food systems resilience capacity, identify weak spots and vulnerable people, and determine priority action areas.

Charles Rice, PhD
Invited Presenter

Session TitleUrban Agriculture, Climate Change, and Food Security:  Potential Solutions and Synergies

Abstract – Human influence on climate is clear, and anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in recent history. Current and future changes in our climate will have widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Urban systems are vulnerable to extreme events associated with heat and rainfall. The effects will be disproportional felt on the elderly, young, those in poverty, and those with prior health conditions. In addition, climate change will affect food production and distribution. Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Urban agriculture could contribute to the mitigation of climate change by reducing heat island effects and mitigate flooding from extreme precipitation events. Urban agriculture could help with food security by the production of locally-sourced nutritious food.  In addition to the physical effects, urban agriculture could have benefits to human health indirectly from green space and the association with nature.

Elizabeth Mitcham, PhD
Invited Presenter

Session Title – The Role of Urban Farming in Nutrition Security

Abstract – It is amazing and sad to observe the high percentage of individuals in the United States today experiencing dietary deficiencies.  Nearly 40% of individuals over 2 years old are deficient in iron and Vitamin C, 56% are deficient in Vitamin A, and 65% are deficient in calcium. In 2010, 24% of households with children reported not having enough money for food; that number is likely higher today.  There are a variety of causes of malnutrition in the United States, including poverty, access to healthy foods (think food deserts), price differentials between healthy and unhealthy foods, increased perishability of some healthy foods, time for food preparation and meals, lack of awareness and poor dietary habits.  Most citizens in the United States are unaware of where their food comes from.  Urban agriculture can play an important role in improving nutrition security in the local community by increasing access to healthy foods and enhancing the community’s connection to food production and preservation.  Community and school gardens are a successful way to reconnect adults and children to their food; especially healthier food options. Urban and peri-urban agriculture can take many forms. Fruits and vegetables are particularly suited to these locations because they can be grown on small plots, providing income and healthy foods. Plants can be produced in open fields, pots, or raised bed, on trellises and rooftops, and in greenhouses or specialized buildings. Plant production in urban areas also reduces the amount of heat generated within cities, making the city “greener”. However, there are challenges to the success of urban agriculture related to food safety and policy restrictions that must be addressed through dialogue among a range of stakeholders in the community. Working together, the many benefits of urban farming will be achieved.

Karen Washington
Invited Presenter

Session Title – Food Justice is More than Growing Food and Feeding People

Abstract – People in poor urban and rural communities are told that if they want food security, all they have to do is grow their own vegetables, give up soda and exercise, as if, by magic, eating vegetables and drinking water are going to solve the problems in the food system, without looking at the institutional, environmental and structural determinants that reinforce racism in today’s society. How has COVID-19 changed the way people now think.

Jill Clark, PhD
Invited Presenter

Jennifer King, PhD
Invited Presenter

Session Title – ‘Fixes that Fail:’ Using community-based systems modeling to diagnose injustice in the food system

Abstract – A legacy of racist policies in the US has embedded inequities and injustices into the American food system. Disparities in access to nutritious food, food insecurity and chronic disease illuminate these injustices. Yet, solutions largely fail to address the underlying complexity of the food system, and the underlying “rules of the game” that, for example, treat Black people differently than White people. Also, solutions are most often are designed without including the perspective of people whom the solution is meant to benefit. A project based in previously redlined neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio, Modeling the Future of Food in Your Neighborhood (foodNEST 2.0), works to address these two deficits in approach. In the words of our university-community partners, the foodNEST 2.0 team is “doing research with the community to make positive neighborhood change in the forces that impact fair access to fresh and healthy foods and financial strength within households. The team is using system dynamics modeling to identify critical points in the food system that can tip things towards fairness.” In this talk, you will be introduced to our participatory approach to systems dynamic modeling, and be presented the model built by our community-university team. Finally, you will get a primer on diagnosing problematic patterns in food systems that reveal root causes of problems, providing a new way to think about justice-oriented interventions in the system. 

Mark Winne
Closing Keynote Presenter

Session Title – The Hydra-Headed Food System: Imagining the Whole and Connecting the Dots

Abstract – Understanding the inner workings of our communities’ food systems has never been more important. Whether we are building a new food system out of the shell of the old, or attempting to repair the old one before it collapses, our attention remains riveted on the multi-faceted challenges of our local and regional food and farm landscapes. “The Hydra-Headed Food System” explores community-level food systems through the ever-evolving lens of climate change, racial equity, food security and access, diet and health, and economic development, not just as stand-alone issues but also through their interrelationships. Developing the analysis and skills for individuals and stakeholder groups to conduct their work is of course essential, but learning how to do that work collaboratively, especially in light of food system complexity, is necessary for success.




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