Developing Knowledge Partnerships Through & Beyond the Pandemic

Since 2020, when COVID-19 morphed from a health pandemic into a set of interconnected socio-ecological crises, prior scholarly debates about the unsustainability of existing food systems that feed cities have acquired immense public resonance. In response, two major challenges led our research team into a local-global knowledge Partnership Development Project: (1) Urban communities and grassroots actors need urgent support to identify, assess, and act on effective solutions to the stresses and failures within food systems and sustainability issues. (2) There is a lack of collaborative research and public outreach that systematically bring together local and global insights to identify, collect, and compare effective strategic actions and solutions. Valuable food systems work remains buried in internal reports, siloed away within Global North and other institutions, and often, inaccessible to communities and grassroots groups. This partnership aims to counter this trend through collaborative knowledge-sharing and especially, community-forward, North-South research conversations.

Through the tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team glimpsed a key opportunity to advance cross-sectoral research to promote a better understanding of the policy-related and community-focused measures that contribute to collective food security, and advance post-pandemic food sustainability. Our team members have already made a promising start on studying the impact of COVID-19 on local food systems and supporting grassroots resiliency and sustainability programs. These provide a strong foundation for this global partnership to collaboratively share, analyze, and mobilize research on post-COVID-19 food futures. We are making innovative use of digital tools to compare research outputs and disseminate research findings to help equip government and community organizations in the development and implementation of policies and approaches to support local food systems, prevent future crises, as they act to sustainably feed cities and communities.

At the core of the partnership are food scholars and advocates, post-secondary scholars and institutions who engage with networks across Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom. We are producing and sharing important insights into local food systems and varied, post-pandemic paths toward resiliency and sustainability. The project builds upon members’ close connections with diverse communities and advocacy groups in order to achieve meaningful engagement and collaborations on issues such as healthy school foods, urban growing, local food markets, farm-table connections, small food enterprises, ethnocultural foods and crops, diasporic, ethnocultural, and heritage foodways. Such a collaborative approach is important given the complex and interconnected nature of local and global food systems. This partnership harnesses a digital infrastructure supported by the University of Toronto Scarborough (MS Sharepoint) to enable current knowledge-sharing, that serves as the basis for public knowledge dissemination in the future, using existing and future platforms.