With support from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, we piloted a Social Innovation Lab from September 2016 to August 2017 in Toronto to determine policy options to address one of the century’s biggest challenges: preventing food waste while honouring the knowledge and values of our Indigenous relations.

Exploring our ideas by sculpting together. In this exercise, groups visualized their food waste solutions using representative symbols from everyday objects they found outside or at home.

Using an approach from the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience, we strategically brought together a variety of stakeholders gain a deep understanding of the system, then identified and prototyped innovations and opportunities that can address root causes of challenges. Three workshops took place, engaging stakeholders in the following format:

  1. Seeing the System – The goal of this workshop was to gain a broad and deep understanding of the system and open new possibilities for interpretation. We used whole system thinking tools to uncover assumptions, mental models, and bring a diversity of viewpoints. Workshop 1 Summary 
  2. Designing – Social innovation tools and methods were used to identify emerging patterns, programs, initiatives, ideas that could transform the system. Possible innovations and opportunities were explored. Workshop 2 Summary
  3. Prototyping – Design thinking tools were used to prototype possible innovations and opportunities. A rapid iteration process was used to maximize learning while minimizing the feedback loop. Workshop 3 Summary

Following the workshops, we published a discussion paper for the Summit on Canada’ Food Policy. In this discussion paper, we put forward four policy considerations for local, provincial, and federal governments based on our engagement with stakeholders and research:

  1. Be Systems-Based
  2. Use Circular Thinking
  3. Support Reconciliation with Indigenous Communities
  4. Promote Innovation and Inclusive Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

We are now moving forward with two of the ideas generated from the Social Innovation Lab: a research project on food waste awareness campaigns and a school curriculum on the circular food system.

Social Innovation Lab Sponsors and Partners

Thank you to the generous sponsors and partners for supporting our work.

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Social Innovation Lab Team


Tammara Soma, Director of Research


Tammara is a 2014 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholar and the Project Manager/Co-Founder of the Food Systems Lab. She is a food system planner and a Doctoral candidate in urban planning at the University of Toronto with a specialization in food waste. She brings to the Lab extensive experience working in food justice advocacy, having worked with organizations such as Sustain Ontario and FoodShare Toronto. She has also worked in the public sector with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Greenbelt Section and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Her community service includes serving as a member of the steering committee of Food Secure Canada, and she was one of the founding members of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council (serving as its Vice-Chair from 2009 to 2010). Tammara blogs for the Huffington Post and is the Co-founder of the International Food Loss and Food Waste Studies group (foodwastestudies.com).

Belinda Li, Director of Innovation


Belinda is an environmental engineer specializing in food waste reduction and organics recycling. She is a consultant with Tetra Tech and co-founded GOAL12, a community organization that is using collaborative approaches to drive sustainable consumption and production. She led the consultant team for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s food waste measurement projects in Nashville, Denver and New York, and was a researcher for the Commission of Environmental Co-operation’s North American food waste research study. Her consulting portfolio includes community engagement on sustainability and strategic planning for government, institutions, and businesses across North America. With GOAL12, she co-hosted the first Open Source Circular Economy Day hackathons in Vancouver and Toronto.

Dave Kranenburg, Social Innovation Lab Advisor


Dave is the Executive Director of the Rhizome Institute for the Future of Food (RIFF). Rhizome Institute is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to improve Canadians’ standard of living by studying, researching and analysing economic and social issues arising from the agrifood system. Dave was raised in a military family traversing Canada every two years as a child. It’s how he honed his skills at marching to a different beat, which he later perfected at the University of Guelph. After six years of dabbling in everything, his marching was rewarded with a BSc in Zoology and a BA in Criminal Justice and Public Policy. So naturally he took this wealth of knowledge to work for a food charity, Meal Exchange. Before he knew a thing about budgets and grant proposals he found himself in Montreal for a series of meetings between social entrepreneurs called “Applied dissemination and sustaining social innovation.” He was hooked, and continued traversing the country, now to bang the drum of social innovation on university campuses. He has served as advisor, mentor, treasurer and supporter for food, technology, youth, environment and international development start-ups across the country.

Research Fellows and Coordinators

Dr. Rafaela Gutierrez, Research Fellow


Dr. Rafaela F. Gutierrez has a PhD in Science and Technology Policy from the Institute of Geosciences, UNICAMP, Brazil. Her research investigated how waste policies affected the plastic recycling production chain in the State of São Paulo. Since 2005 she has been studying waste pickers cooperatives and waste policies focusing on how to improve socio-productive inclusion of waste pickers. Dr. Gutierrez was also a visiting researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Waste Management at the University of Northampton, UK. She has edited a published book on waste related topics in portuguese.

Kelsey Carriere, Research and Policy Coordinator


Kelsey Carriere is a Masters of Planning Student at the University of Toronto with a keen interest in developing circular urban systems for food and resource use. She is a researcher with Eat Local Grey Bruce helping to develop a local food distribution network and brings a background of environmental studies, design and advocacy to the project. Beyond academia, Kelsey is a professional illustrator and artist. For the last 15 years she has dedicated most of her free time to making the world a better place, initiating and collaborating on such projects as: Streets are for People; P.S. Kensington; The Garden Car; The Petition Car; Guerilla gardening, streetscape improvements and cyclist safety infrastructure; Wiarton Farmers’ Market; People’s Climate March, and many acts of art that make people smile or just stop and think.

Dr. Alissa Hamilton, Writer in Residence


Alissa Hamilton JD, has a PhD from Yale University in Environmental Studies. She is the author of Squeezed: What You Don’t Know about Orange Juice, which helped spark a series of class-action lawsuits against orange juice companies in the United States; and Got Milked? What You Don’t Know About Dairy and the Truth About Calcium. An authority on food processing, marketing, and labeling issues, Hamilton has written for major publications and academic journals. She has spoken at TEDx Cambridge; has been a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer; has been featured in the Guardian, The Atlantic, the NewYorker.com, the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and Wired.co.uk; and has been on NPR and Martha Stewart Living Radio. A former Food and Society Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Hamilton lives in Toronto, Canada.

Daniela Spagnuolo, Policy Coordinator


Daniela Spagnuolo is pursuing a specialist in International Development Studies and a major in Political Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her research currently explores the impacts of foreign aid policy on Guyana’s HIV/AIDS response. Daniela’s interests include the politics of urban food systems and how retailers contribute to food waste. She currently serves as the Chair of TEDxUTSC and has extensive experience in community engagement and organization of large-scale initiatives. Daniela has assisted with major food conferences. Most recently, she was part of the logistics team in support of Canadian Association Food Studies Conference, held at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Omar Elsharkawy, Research Fellow


Omar Elsharkawy is an Environmental Studies and Sociology student at Carleton University. His current research is looking at how we define success in building a just, and sustainable food system in Eastern Ontario. Omar is also working on campus food systems and campus alternative food initiatives. He is co-president-elect for the Geography and Environmental Studies Student Association at Carleton. Omar is also a research assistant at the Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement project. CFICE undertakes research alongside community partners across Canada to ensure that “campus community engagement” truly benefits the nonprofit, community-based organizations involved. Omar’s interests include: community food security, municipal food policy councils, and food citizenship.

Dr. Michelle Coyne, Research Fellow

Michelle Coyne has been researching and advocating food waste reduction for over ten years. She completed her doctorate in Communication and Culture, York University in 2013. Her research explores urban systems of food waste and communication practices of food waste activists. She has worked with Second Harvest, the National Zero Waste Council, and the Toronto Food Policy Council to develop food waste reduction strategies. She has presented on the topic at conferences and community events across Southern Ontario and internationally. Currently, she is a Research Fellow with the Food Systems Lab at the University of Toronto.

Marcy Lillard, Education and Food Literacy Coordinator

Marcy Lillard began her career in education earning a Master’s degree in Education and has worked in elementary schools and with children with special needs. She has also worked diligently to reduce food waste, as seen through the creation of the website, www.mindfulgrocer.com, which is a web portal providing news, simple ideas and tools that consumers can implement into their daily lives, that will help save money and our environment. Most recently, Marcy graduated from Seneca College’s Sustainable Business Management program, and completed an internship at Provision Coalition, assisting with their Food Loss + Waste program. Currently, Marcy is combining her two passions by focusing on food literacy and reducing food waste in schools through her position as Education and Food Literacy Coordinator at the Food Systems Lab.

Special Advisors

Hon. Glen Murray


Glen Murray has a lifetime of activism in urban planning, sustainable development and community health. He was the Senior Resident and Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Design at Massey College, University of Toronto and worked on the Development of the University’s City Centre. He was a Managing Partner of AuthentiCITY, a Toronto based Urban Sustainability consulting and planning firm. He was appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute in 2007 and led the development of award winning programs in community energy mapping & planning, regional economic development and culture lead regeneration of urban centres. He has served on several university, hospital and community boards including the Expo 2015 Bid Committee and the Toronto District School Board’s Reference Group for Improving Services for Marginalized Students. Glen was appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada to Chair the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), where he helped to shape environmental policy and respond to climate change in Canada. He is the current Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Ontario.

Dr. Wayne Roberts


Dr. Wayne Roberts is a Canadian food policy analyst and writer, widely respected for his role as the manager of the [Toronto Food Policy Council], a citizen body of 30 food activists and experts that is widely recognized for its innovative approach to food security, from 2000-2010. As a leading member of the City of Toronto’s Environmental Task Force, he helped develop a number of official plans for the city, including the Environmental Plan and Food Charter, adopted by Toronto City Council in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Many ideas and projects of the TFPC are featured in Roberts’ book The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food (2008).

Dr. Virginia Maclaren


Dr. Virginia Maclaren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Program in Planning. She has a Ph.D. in Regional Science from Cornell University and a Master’s degree in Regional Planning from the University of Ottawa. Her main research interests in Southeast Asia are in environmental and waste management. Her most recent projects include an investigation of community-based waste management in Siem Reap (with colleagues at the Royal University of Phnom Penh), market waste composting in Vientiane (in collaboration with the National Science Council of Lao PDR), micro-credit programs for waste pickers in Hai Phong (in collaboration with the Vietnam Women’s Union), source separation programs in Hanoi (in collaboration with staff at the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment), and public involvement in environmental impact assessment in Vietnam.

Dr. Evan Fraser


Dr. Fraser is a 2014 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellow. He started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara. There, he watched his stock-broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while the farmers around were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern US and Mexico. He decided, however, it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living on it so passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school. He did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT. Since graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the UK where he worked on farming and climate change at the University of Leeds. He is the author of approximately 70 scientific papers or book chapters on these topics, has written for the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was published by Simon and Schuster and shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award. Currently, he holds the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Dr. Kate Parizeau


Dr. Kate Parizeau is Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography at the University of Guelph. Kate plans to continue studying waste management policies and practices, both in Canada and internationally. She views the study of waste as a means to interrogate the ways that societies prioritize various environmental and social concerns; this topic also serves as a source of insight to the politicization and governance of everyday life. Themes that Kate addresses in her research include urban inequality, environmental justice, political redefinitions of public spaces, and dimensions of social difference. In addition to her PhD from the University of Toronto, Kate also holds a Master of Science in Planning from the same institution, and a Bachelor of Arts and Science from McMaster University. Her work has been generously supported by the Trudeau Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the International Development Research Centre, and the Lupina Foundation.

Dr. Marie Wilson, Special Advisor on Indigenous Matters


Marie Wilson is a 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Mentor and spent over three decades building an illustrious career in journalism before becoming one of three commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). At the TRC, she worked for six and a half years to reveal the history and impacts of more than a century of forced residential schooling for Indigenous children. She is now pursuing aspects of reconciliation beyond the TRC as the 2016 professor of practice at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development. Wilson was appointed a TRC commissioner after 35 years as an award-winning journalist, trainer, senior executive manager, independent contractor, and consultant in journalism, program evaluation, and project management. She also worked as a university lecturer in Canada, and a high school teacher in Africa. In all, Wilson has lived, studied, and worked in cross-cultural environments – including in Europe, Africa, South America and various parts of Canada – for almost forty years.

Dr. Lauren Baker


Dr. Lauren Baker is the Coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council at Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto. Her past work includes being the founding director of Sustain Ontario – the Alliance for Healthy Food and Farming. Lauren has consulted on many farm to fork food systems initiatives – from farmers markets to food charters. In 1997, Lauren co-founded Toronto’s first certified organic urban farm, which led to the creation of FoodShare Toronto’s urban agriculture program. Lauren teaches at the University of Toronto, is a research associate with Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security, and has a PhD in Environmental Studies from York University. She is the author of Corn meets Maize: Food Movements and Markets in Mexico.

Melanie Goodchild, Anishinaabe/ Special Advisor on Indigenous Relations


Melanie Goodchild, Senior Indigenous Research Fellow and Ambassador, Suncor Fellow, The Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). Melanie Goodchild is Anishinaabe, moose clan, a member of the Biigtigong Nishnawbeg in northwestern Ontario. Melanie has a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology and is currently completing her PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. She is a Research Fellow and Indigenous Ambasssador with the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). She is Senior Counsel, Indigenous Relations at National Office for the Canadian Red Cross (CRC). Melanie was selected as one of 35 women from around the world to participate in the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Leadership Foundation’s 2015-2016 Fellows Program that includes Harvard Executive Education Training at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, MA, and the Women Leading Global Change program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. She was also one of 28 Canadians selected by the Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute to participate in the first ever Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency for 28 days at the Banff Centre, in Alberta, in June 2015 and returned to Banff in 2016 as an Alumni Mentor. Melanie sits on the national boards of the Canadian Risks and Hazards Network (CRHNet) and Rhizome Institute for the Future of Food (RIFF). Melanie is an Advisor for the Nourish: The Future of Food in Healthcare program of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. She is also a member of the IBA – the Iron Butt Association, riding her Harley-Davidson 1000 miles in 24 hours earning her the badge of “one of the world’s toughest riders”!

Mike Nevin

Mike Nevin is the Compost Facilitator for FoodShare Toronto. As long as he remembers, he was interested in waste reduction and waste issues. So, getting into composting was no stretch. Living at Bain Co-op Mike was able to run several three-bin composters and, hence, learn how to problem solve with compost. Mike has been composting at Bain for 20+ years. He entered into FoodShare through an organic food box start-up that was incubating there. At FoodShare Toronto Mike composts upwards of two tons per month of food scraps and nourishes the gardens with finished compost. When not composting, Mike is interested in opera and world politics.