Even before the global pandemic, the dominant food system could be characterised by a number of compounding and interconnected socioecological crises driven by the structural inequities resulting from white supremacy, heteronormativity, ableism, settler colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism. COVID-19 deepened inequity and ecological destruction throughout the food system – from needless COVID-19 outbreaks at factory farms, to increased food waste and rates of food insecurity. At the same time, within this ferment of crisis, the excess of the capital intensive, industrialized food system has resulted in reinvigorated calls for change – from the mass boycotting of the forthcoming UN Global Food Systems Summit to emergent solidarities and novel opportunities to prefigure alternative approaches to engaging with food at various scales.
In this talk I will reflect on the ways decisions about food systems occur within a complex political and cultural amalgam. Drawing on community-based, action-focused research, I will highlight how advocates for more socially just and ecologically rational food systems navigate this fraught configuration to make action-focused decisions within the context of multiple crises.
Michael Classens is an Assistant Professor – Teaching Stream, in the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto. His teaching, research and advocacy work are broadly motivated by commitments to social and environmental justice, particularly within the context of the food system. His current research agenda has two focus areas: critical sustainability pedagogy, and local food systems transformation. He is co-editor (with Dr. Jennifer Sumner) of a forthcoming issue of Canadian Food Studies titled “Food systems pedagogy in Canada” (fall 2021), and the author of a forthcoming book, From dismal swamp to smiling farms: Food, agriculture and change in the Holland Marsh (UNC Press and UBC Press, October 2021)