Next Open Dialogue Live to explore the impact of policy on food security – Dal News


The COVID-19 pandemic has strained many aspects of daily life, including food affordability and accessibility. Looking ahead, the future presents an opportunity for food resilience — a concept that has proven itself over the past three years, says Cassie Hayward (BA’19), food security advocate and PhD student at the University of Cambridge.

“At first [of the pandemic], it was the first time that many people could really feel the effects of the food shortage,” she says. “Typically in Canada we don’t have those issues — if you need something, you go to the store, and it’s all there. But this time the shelves were empty.

Resilience is needed in the supply chain, she says. “This ensures that our supply chains can bounce back when exposed to stresses and shocks, ultimately ensuring that we have food secure individuals.”

Hayward experienced food insecurity as a child in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and after joining the 4-H program in grade 10, he became interested in finding solutions. During her undergraduate studies at King’s and Dal, she presented at the Global Youth Agricultural Summit and won 10,000 Euros (equivalent to $13,454.70 in Canadian dollars), which she used to successfully piloting a food security project in Kenya. She was later invited to speak about her work at the United Nations Committee on World Food Security and has addressed the global body several times since.

Hayward will be one of three panelists to speak at the upcoming Dalhousie conference Open Dialogue Live event on November 17: “How Policy Impacts Food Security”. Through a variety of perspectives, the event will explore how Dalhousie accesses Atlantic Canada’s strengths in food production and distribution.

It will also explore the important question, how does politics impact the future of food security?

Food policy enables planning and results

“It’s about intended and unintended consequences,” shares Dr. Chris Hartt, associate professor in the Department of Business and Social Sciences at Dal’s Agricultural Campus, who will moderate the discussion.

According to the Government of Canada, food policy is developed to guide food-related systems and actions. It is an approach to understanding and addressing the connections within food systems and a blueprint for making decisions about food.

“Politics can limit – or encourage – access to goods through direct controls,” says Dr Hartt. “The implementation of a policy will always lead to specific results, specific consequences.”

A chain reaction

Dr. Phoebe Stephens, an associate professor in the Faculty of Agriculture, says food scarcity is more about distribution and access than production. Around the world, millions of people struggle every day to feed themselves and their families. “High food prices exacerbate the situation,” she says. “Many policies can be introduced to curb [high and rising food prices]but so far governments have taken a more voluntary or hands-off approach.

“It’s systematic; everything is linked,” confirms Dr. Gumataw Abebe, also an assistant professor at the Faculty of Agriculture. “One element can have an impact on another. This concept is not new, but it needs more recognition to bring about positive change.

“We live in a very globalized environment,” he says, in which people all over the world realize the importance of supporting the local. “To bring this synergy, we need a more sustainable approach.”

Worse and worse before getting better

As Hayward shares, if food prices continue to rise, Canadians are more likely to seek cost-cutting measures. “And because of this, food insecurity may get worse before it gets better.”

“The future of politics also requires understanding that the food system is (more or less) incentive-based,” adds Dr Abebe. “It’s so powerful. And we need to align those incentives with societal expectations – those that would be more accessible to more people.

Resilience in the system

According to Dr Stephens, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how more local and decentralized systems can be more agile in responding to shocks that come from a pandemic, rather than the industrial food system, which, she adds, “is quite vulnerable”. given its level of concentration and the length of supply chains.

“A supply chain can be interrupted,” says Hayward, “but with the right consumer behavior and the right policies in place, it can bounce back quickly.”

Open Dialogue Live: “How Policy Impacts Food Security”, will be presented by the Faculty of Agriculture and will be offered in-person November 17 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. AST in Room 153 of the Cox Institute at Dal’s Agriculture Campus in Truro and simultaneously streamed online via YouTube and Facebook Live.

Register to attend in person or online at

Panelists will include:

Cassie HaywardKing’s graduate, policy analyst at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge

Dr. Phoebe StephensAssistant Professor in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at Dal Agricultural Campus

Dr. Gumataw Abebe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Business and Social Sciences at Dal Agricultural Campus

Attendance is free, and members of the public in person and online will have the opportunity to ask questions during and after the event.


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