QES Post-Doctoral Scholars, Zhenzhong Si and Mary Caesar report on their work for the Toronto Food Strategy Team

Research and policy in practice with the Toronto Food Strategy Team

Queen Elizabeth post-doctoral scholars Mary Caesar and Zhenzhong Si have been working with and learning from the Toronto Food Strategy Team (TFST) since November 2017. Mary and Zhenzhong have been participating in a number of TFSF’s projects. They first learned about the priorities and partner organizations of the TFST and their engagement in a range of interesting projects, such as developing a Toronto Food Strategy report, the Food by Ward mapping project and the urban agriculture advocacy. This was an excellent opportunity for QE Scholars who predominantly work on issues related to the urban food system in the Global South, to gain first-hand insight into the urban food system at in a major city in the Global North.

Mary and Zhenzhong are currently collaborating with the TFST on two projects. The first is the application of the Milan Urban Food Framework (MUFF), the implementing tool for the Milan Urban Policy Pact (MAPP). Members of the TFST are instrumental in the development of the MUFF and the TFST is also using the MUFF as a guide to complete their next annual report. Mary and Zhenzhong provided constructive feedback to the framework’s overall structure. They went through the specific indicators together to determine their relevance to the city of Toronto, the availability of data needed and the feasibility to collect some of the data. The discussion of the MUFF indicators helped Mary and Zhenzhong to reflect on and rethink their work with the Hungry Cities Partnership on urban food security. In a related process, Mary and Zhenzong worked with the TFST to brainstorm the most effective diagram to represent the multiple, overlapping components of Toronto’s food system to be included in the report. It was a mutual learning process. On the one hand, Mary and Zhenzhong provided constructive suggestions to the drafting of the report. On the other hand, they also learned a lot about the critical roles and approaches of the Toronto Food Strategy in facilitating a more sustainable food system in Toronto.

Mary and Zhenzhong’s work for and with the TFST enables them to apply their knowledge of food system issues to solve real-world challenges, which in turn enhances their understandings of the challenges facing Toronto’s food system and potential strategies to address these challenges. It has also cultivated their leadership in related community engagement work in the future.