The Journey Continues: “Alternative food research receives $1 million boost”
But the reality is more than 100,000 Manitobans are considered “food insecure.” Rural families with low farm incomes are going without; northern communities face high food prices; and Indigenous and northern communities are often unable to obtain traditional food. To some, these challenges may seem insurmountable.
Federal Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear today announced $1 million for the Manitoba Alternative Food Research Alliance (MAFRA) to launch an intensive research project into food justice. This Community University Research Alliance (CURA) grant is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
University of Manitoba environmental science and studies professor Stéphane McLachlan, the principal investigator for MAFRA, said their aim is to help affected communities come up with answers to problems associated with food justice.
“Our research will be rooted in real-world problems and solutions,” McLachlan said. “Despite being a key exporter of agricultural commodities, Manitoba is one of the provinces most challenged by poverty and food insecurity in Canada. These shortcomings underlie a growing excitement over alternative food systems here.
These systems include: local food initiatives (which connect consumers to nearby food sources and growers), community food security (when all people have unconditional access to healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably produced food) and food sovereignty (which gives communities control over food provision in their regions).
“We contend that all three approaches are required for building effective local food systems and for achieving food justice in prairie and northern regions of Canada,” McLachlan added.
MAFRA includes researchers from the University of Manitoba, University College of the North, and the Rural Development Institute of Brandon University as well as University of Saskatchewan, University of Calgary, and University of Victoria. In addition, 52 community organizations and NGOS are participating from urban, rural, and northern regions of Manitoba and from elsewhere in Canada. These include Food Matters Manitoba, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, Four Arrows Regional Health Authority, and Harvest Moon Society amongst many others.
“The impact of this research will be far-reaching. These researchers are committed to conducting a well-planned study, results of which will help communities in need in Manitoba,” said Digvir S. Jayas, vice-president (research) at the University of Manitoba. “I congratulate the recipients and commend their dedication.”
McLachlan and his MAFRA partners will spend the next five years facilitating innovative, grassroots research to investigate issues associated with just and sustainable food systems in the province. By funding community projects, skill-building workshops, curriculum development, and networking opportunities, MAFRA aims to empower communities to learn about, and develop, alternative food systems. Importantly, these initiatives will foster collaborations and support systems among the inner city, rural and northern regions in Manitoba.
Kreesta Doucette, executive director of Food Matters Manitoba (FMM), said her organization is excited about the CURA-funded project. “This project provides opportunities to move forward on a wide diversity of community needs. In addition, it will allow Manitobans to take steps towards their vision for a just and sustainable food system as articulated in the Manitoba Food Charter; this developed through over 70 province-wide consultations.”
Celia Guilford from Harvest Moon Society is equally optimistic. “We are very excited to work with university researchers and other community groups from across the province. This alliance will play an important role in addressing an ongoing rural crisis in western Canada and help address the decline of small and family farms.”
SSHRC is an independent federal government agency that funds university-based research and graduate training through national peer review competitions. SSHRC also partners with public and private sector organizations to focus research and aid the development of better policies and practices in key areas of Canada’s social, cultural and economic life.
For further information on MAFRA go to:http://www.localandjust.ca.