Food Systems Lab receives grant for social innovation on bioplastic packaging

Food Systems Lab is pleased to announce that we have received a grant from the Trans-Atlantic Platform Social Innovation Call for a new project titled Social Innovation Management for Bioplastics (SIMBIO). We will be working on social interventions that will address the environmental and social challenges of bioplastic packaging throughout its entire supply chain from production to end-of-life management in collaboration with researchers from Brazil, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

Bioplastic packaging made from bio-based polymers has a large potential impact on both food systems and waste management systems worldwide. As plastic pollution is a global problem, the solution needs to be developed with a global context and cannot be isolated to one region or country. This requires close collaboration of research team members on both sides of the Atlantic to work on a solution to bioplastics that is viable and scalable to multiple locales. We will engage stakeholders throughout the supply chain who are impacted by the production, use, and end-of-life management of bioplastic packaging, including those who are normally excluded from design and decision-making processes across three continents.

Through this project that will take place over the next two years, we plan to explore the following research questions:

  • What are the social and environmental roles of bioplastic packaging in the global context of sustainable food production and consumption?
  • What is the current understanding of bioplastic packaging for food from the perspectives of consumers and businesses?
  • Under what circumstances is bioplastic packaging the best option for storing and transporting food?
  • What are alternative products with lower environmental footprints that can be used instead ofbioplastic packaging?
  • How does the resource extraction and industrial processing for producing bioplastic packagingaffect food security, the ecosystem, and the well-being of those impacted?
  • If the quantity of bioplastic packaging increases substantially, how will these products impact theformal and informal recycling, composting, and waste management sector?
  • If bioplastic packaging is the best option for certain scenarios, what are product design parameters,processes, policies, and supporting systems that need to be in place to manage a supply chain of these packaging materials that minimizes negative environmental and social impacts?

Building on our experience from running a food waste social innovation lab in Toronto, we will be using a similar methodology for this project, following a three workshop format to understand the problem on bioplastic packaging, design solutions, and prototype promising solutions. Summary reports and journal articles will be written as we progress through this research.

SFU Farm to Campus Initiative

Food Systems Lab is excited to announce the launch of the SFU Farm to Campus Initiative in partnership with Embark Sustainability and the SFU Sustainability Office.

For 10 weeks, participants of this initiative will receive a box of seasonal farm produce from a small farm in Delta. Help reduce food waste and support a more sustainable and just food system. The zucchinis offered by this farm are certified organic and delicious!

Bake it, broth it, buy what you need

A guest blog post from one of our student research assistants

Hello! My name is Lydia Ng and I am a third year undergraduate student studying a Neuroscience and Nutritional Sciences double major at the University of Toronto. I am originally from Vancouver, British Columbia and in Vancouver, composting is mandatory by law  for everyone. When I arrived in Toronto, I was surprised the lack of food waste prevention practice and food waste knowledge from my peers.

During my second year, I became involved with a start-up company, Feedback, who help reduce food waste from restaurants by offering dynamic pricing of their menu items during off-peak hours. It was great that I got to be part of something to help with the food waste problem in Canada. The importance and value of food has always been a major teaching growing up, so when I heard about the open research position for the Food Systems Lab, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. I was excited to be part of a team that was dedicated in food waste prevention within the community. As a research assistant in the Food System Lab, I helps the research team with tasks, such as data entry, workshop planning, and data analysis. I was also very interested in being part of the interactions with the community to hear about their own food waste prevention strategies.

One of my favourite recipes to prevent food waste is to make a broth using vegetable scraps or meat bones. I love how simple it is to make, and it helps me used parts of the food I would otherwise not normally eat. I am also a huge baker, so whenever I have some very ripe fruit, like bananas or apples, I would use them in my baking. A few examples include, banana bread, apple strudels or tarts, scones, or muffins.

My top three tips for reducing or preventing food waste include:

  1. Do Not Always Buy in Bulk. Everytime I go grocery shopping, I notice the retailers advertise specials like buy 4 for $5, or buy 2 get one free. Often as consumers get trapped into the idea that buy more is cheaper, however it not always the case, especially if food gets wasted in the end. Sometimes the 2 for $4 is a trick for you to buy more because in the fine print, it may say that the item is still $2 if you only buy one.
  2. Portion Control. Try to cook enough food for only that meal, maybe a bit extra for leftovers for the next day. If you are someone that tends to forget about leftovers or prefers not to eat the same meal multiple times, it is better to only cook enough food for that one particular meal. Sometimes less is better.
  3. Purchase Versatile Ingredients. For example, carrots, onion, and celery can be used for soups, pasta, or fried rice. When I want to try a new recipe, sometimes it requires an item that I normally do not purchase. During those times, I try to substitute those items with items that I already have on hand or ones I know I can use for other meals.


A New Grant and A New Toolkit

Food Systems Lab has been quietly working this spring on some new initiatives and we are thrilled to finally be able to share them with the world!

New Frontiers

Assistant Professor Tammara Soma (PI) has been awarded the SSHRC New Frontiers Grant for Our Home, Our Food, Our Resilience: A Citizen Science Approach to Food Asset Mapping and New Frontiers in Ecological Heritage Planning in Canada. This two-year project will involve extensive collaboration with researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia spanning fields of expertise including Ethnobiology and Archaeology, Forestry, Indigenous Governance, Biology, Information and Arts Technology, Social Work and Geography.

Food asset mapping is an emerging tool in planning and has been used to document available food infrastructures in cities for the purpose of achieving food security. However, food asset mapping has not included ecological and cultural assets important to food system resiliency. Further, what are considered “assets” may not reflect the lived experiences of marginalized communities. This study will apply a “citizen science” led community food asset mapping in three cities: Port Alberni, Terrace and Vancouver. The project includes a photovoice methodology representing diverse communities including Indigenous, racialized, and low-income communities.

Food Matters Action Kit

Looking for learning materials and project to tackle the issue of food waste? Look no further!

Food Systems Lab is delighted to announce the launch of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Food Matters Action Kit with over 2 dozen activities to inspire youth to make a difference. With support from colleagues in the United States and Mexico, the Food Systems Lab team had the opportunity to contribute to the development of this youth action kit. We hope to spark a collective youth movement to prevent, reduce, recover food loss and waste in North American and beyond. Spread the word and join the youth movement!