The Project: Feeding the City

Feeding the City is a project that brings together academic researchers and a range of community partners. We are tracking how food growers and buyers, community food providers, and civil society organizations in the Greater Toronto Area are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ways they are responding to maintain food access and alleviate food insecurity. We are collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data from farmers and urban growers, food workers, vulnerable sections of food consumers, agri-food networks, and social enterprises.

Our goal is to understand how local communities are meeting the challenges of this pandemic, to learn how they can best be supported, and to consider how current experiences inform transformative changes that are required in the food system.

We are looking at these five points of interest:

1) Urban growing

2) Produce supply chains

3) Local agriculture and farm-consumer connections

4) Healthy food to children and youth with schools closed

5) Priority Neighbourhood food security

Project Lead

Jo Sharma

Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough

Jo (Jayeeta) Sharma is an Associate Professor in the Historical and Cultural Studies Department and a member of Graduate Departments of History at the University of Toronto. Her research examines food, mobilities, labour, family and gender in imperial and postcolonial spaces, including the city of Toronto.

Project Manager

Bryan Dale

University of Toronto, Culinaria Postdoctoral Fellow

Bryan Dale is a Postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with the Culinaria Research Centre and the Department of History and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. His doctoral research focused on the potential expansion of ecological farming in the Canadian context as a means to fight climate change. Bryan is interested in food sovereignty and agroecology, and the political-economic and cultural aspects of social movement organizing to transform the food system. Through the Feeding the City project, Bryan is responsible for project management, supporting and training students, completing data collection and analysis, and writing for a variety of formats.

Team Members

Dan Bender

Professor of History, University of Toronto Scarborough Acting Director, Culinaria Research Centre

Dan is a Canada Research Chair and director of the Culinaria Research Centre, the Uof T’s research unit for the study of food and its relationship to culture, society, and political economy. 

Jeffrey M. Pilcher

Professor of Food History, University of Toronto Scarborough

Jeffrey is a Professor of History and Food Studies and is currently leading a research project on the history of migrant foodways in Toronto.

Ken Macdonald

Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough

Ken is a cultural geographer with the Department of Geography and Planning, the Centre for Development Studies, and the Centre for Diasporic and Transnational Studies.

Harriet Friedmann

Professor Emerita, University of Toronto

Harriet is a pioneering food system analyst, writer and lecturer. She participated in the founding of the Toronto Food Policy Council and has been a board member for a number of biodiversity initiatives, including Seed Change and the Toronto Seed Library.

Project Collaborators

Sarah Elton

Assistant Professor, Sociology, Ryerson University

Sarah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University and is a multidisciplinary food scholar. She is the author of several award-winning books on urban food systems, including Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and has written for publications including The New York TimesThe Globe and MailMaclean’s and The Atlantic

Rachel Engler-Stringer

Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan

Rachel is an associate professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan and a researcher at the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit. Her main areas of research include food systems and health, school food and health, Indigenous food systems and urban access to traditional foods, and community-based and participatory research for health

Jaclyn Rohel

University of Toronto, Culinaria Postdoctoral Fellow

Jackie Rohel is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Culinaria Research Centre at the University of Toronto. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on cities, public culture and the marketplace. She has written on innovation in global foodways, on hospitality, and on social issues that intersect health and urban governance.

Michael Kessler

Trinity College in the University of Toronto

Michael Kessler is an Assistant Professor in the Ethics Society & Law Program at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, and the Raymond Pryke Chair and Director of the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program. He also directs Trinity College’s Sustainable Food Systems Research Group. His research looks at legal issues surrounding freedom of expression, consent, environmental and animal ethics, and political equality.

Michael Classens

Trent University team

Michael is an  Assistant Professor in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program in the Trent School of the Environment at Trent University. His teaching, research and advocacy work are broadly motivated by commitments to social and environmental justice, particularly within the context of the food system. 

Mary Anne Martin

Trent University team

Mary Anne Martin is a feminist food systems researcher whose doctoral research explored the household foodwork practices of low-income Peterborough mothers and the impact of community food programs on them. Her research interests include household food insecurity, social reproduction, income support systems, the impact of community-based food initiatives, and urban agriculture. She is studying how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the local food system and how actors in this food system have responded to it with a view towards both short-term relief and long-term transformation.

Akua Agyemang

Trent University team

Akua Agyemang  is a Master of Sustainability Studies student at Trent University. Her research interests include Food, Racism and Justice. She is currently doing a research project on Food Insecurity among racialized international students. Her research seeks to understand how food insecurity, broadly defined, impacts the lives and learning of racialized international students at Trent University and the University of Toronto. She studying how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the local food system and to build a more sustainable and just local food system in the midst of, and beyond, the global pandemic.

Organization Partners

Debbie Field

Coordinator, Coalition for Healthy School Food, Associate Member, Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University

Debbie is Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Associate Member, Centre for Studies in Food Security, at Ryerson University. She was executive director of FoodShare for 25 years.

Rhonda Teitel-Payne

Co-coordinator, Toronto Urban Growers

Rhonda has been active for over twenty years with programs such as The Stop Community Food Centre, Toronto Community Garden Network, and the World Crops project. At Toronto Urban Growers (TUG), she spearheaded the Grower2Grower initiative to showcase newcomer and Indigenous growers.

Marina Queirolo

Marina is a community builder and entrepreneur by nature, and a designer and marketer by trade. Since 2010, Marina has managed Evergreen’s initiatives related to food policy and public markets. She has also been a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council since 2013, and lead for the Public Food Markets and Market City project. Marina’s passion for food, public markets and community motivates her to find ways to collaborate and work together with other practitioners towards a common goal: A robust regional economy and healthier more inclusive communities.

Digital Team

Joel Dickau

University of Toronto

Joel is a doctoral student in history researching the development of sensory science in the food industry. He also researches the history of Toronto’s urban food system. Read more of Joel’s work below:


Juan Jose Lloren

Juan Jose is an administrator and Junior Researcher in the Feeding the City Project.  He completed his undergraduate degree In the University of Toronto with a double major in Diaspora & Transnational studies, Spanish, and a minor in History. Juan is focused on studying food scarcity and food production, as well as educational programs to encourage sustainable development in food security. Juan’s interests include language learning, literature, agriculture, and environmental sustainability.

Junior Researchers

Azra Alavi

Azra is a third-year student at the University of Toronto Scarborough studying International Development Studies and Environmental Science. As a research assistant, she hopes to learn more about how marginalized communities in Toronto are disproportionately affected by food insecurity during Covid-19,  and how to work towards sustainable solutions. In her free time, she enjoys biking around Toronto and reading.

Hannah Klemmensen

Hannah is in her second year at the University of Toronto Scarborough specializing in International Development. Learning about food systems through her degree she immediately fell in love with the area of study, as it combined so many of the social and environmental questions she finds most interesting. Hannah is excited to be a part of the Feeding the City team, seeing it as a way to start using her skills and knowledge to give back to her new home of Toronto and further work on solutions to our world’s most pressing concerns regarding justice, environment, and equity.

Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia is a second-year student at the University of Toronto currently completing a major in Environmental Science with minors in Immunology and Environmental Studies. Some of her research interests include how the environment impacts health. With Feeding the City, she is researching how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected community food support systems, specifically food banks. Outside of classes, Olivia is involved in campus environmental activism and enjoys cycling around the city, painting, and playing the piano.

Megan Sutherland

Megan is a second year student at the University of Toronto studying a double major in Peace, Conflict and Justice studies as well as Ethics, Society and Law with a minor in Women and Gender studies. As a junior researcher through Trinity College, Megan is interested in analyzing urban food systems as it allows her to delve deeper into the intersections which connect environmental and social injustices. Megan is working on the community supports team and hopes to pursue a future in environmental policy to help promote environmental equity.

Nida Mirza

Nida Mirza is a Master of Science in Planning candidate at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include Indigenous/settler relations, anti-colonial planning, and sustainable urban design. As a sustainability and community research assistant for Feeding the City, she will be conducting research on cultural community food supports.

Rachel Ready

Rachel is a third year student at UofT studying human geography, environmental studies and critical equity & solidarity studies. She has a background working in urban agriculture and food security projects at home in Victoria (Lekwungen Territory) and has continued this work in an academic capacity for the past few years at UofT. As a research assistant for Feeding the City she will be engaging with local food distributors on how the pandemic has impacted their operations and communities. Her broader interests include collective knowledge work, cohesion and systems change, and food sovereignty, and looks forward to enriching these understandings through this work.

Yusra Khalid

Yusra is a graduate student at University of Toronto’s GPLLM Program, specializing in Canadian Law. She completed her Bachelors of Law degree from London, and Master’s in Intellectual Property and Information Law from Houston. She has done substantial legal work for not-for-profit organizations in the past, and recently joined an organization based in Newfoundland and Labrador to assist with legal work in combating food insecurity at the time of Covid-19. She developed interest in learning how COVID-19 has affected food insecurity rates and the people who face hunger. Her contribution to the Feeding the City project includes data collection with respect to availability of Halal food through food banks in Toronto. Outside of work, Yusra enjoys professional photography and video editing.

Shirin Arghandeh

Shirin is in her final year at UofT studying a major in Statistics and minors in French, and Diaspora & Transnational Studies. Her passion lies in understanding the intersection between qualitative and quantitative studies. Shirin’s exposure to food security first came from working on a project with Cat Lake First Nations and since then has developed a strong interest in diverse food systems. She is currently working as a Junior Researcher, conducting data analyses on food system datasets in Toronto. When not working with data, Shirin enjoys cooking, bike riding, reading, and writing in her blog!

Ruth Siew

Ruth Siew is completing her final year in undergraduate Psychology at Ryerson University. Working as an RA for Sarah Elton, Ruth has discovered an interest in how COVID-19 has affected the long-standing systemic inequalities present in Toronto’s food infrastructure. For the past three years, she has worked and lived in a vibrant community of differently abled people with L’Arche Canada. She enjoys going to the park with her one eyed dog and tending to her fledgling vegetable garden. 

Madeleine Frechette

Madeleine is in her second year of study at the University of Toronto, with membership to Trinity College. She is completing a double-major in Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and Environmental Studies, with a minor in Indigenous Studies. In her studies, Madeleine’s primary focus is the intersection between law and environmentalism, with a particular focus on the policies that support sustainable food systems and beyond. As a Junior Researcher with Feeding the City, Madeleine is connecting with small-scale farmers and other related food workers to better understand their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Madeleine’s interests include film, politics, and environmental sustainability.

Hannah Mercer

Hannah Mercer, is completing her final year at the University of Toronto as a member of St. Michael’s College. She is currently taking a double major in environmental studies and political science, where she developed an interest in the ways in which the natural environment affects people, groups, and communities in different contexts. Hannah plans on attending law school after completing her undergrad, focusing on environmental law. Hannah is a member of a dance company with U of T, Silhouettes, and enjoys swimming, learning languages, and making videos.

Eleonora Gagliardi

Eleonora is interested in planning for a more equitable food system within the city of Toronto. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning. Her research is focused on promoting agricultural growth in both urban and rural settings. However, in the wake of COVID-19, she has been focusing on understanding the limitations that are experienced within our local food systems and supply chains by understanding their effectiveness in feeding the city. She is interested in understanding and researching not only the current food-based initiatives that have been put in place to accommodate food-related pressures but also how production supply chains can better serve the city.

Jeffrey Liu

Jeff is a fourth year student at UTSC specializing in History and minoring in Global Asia Studies. He has been working with Professor Jayeeta Sharma as her research assistant for over two years. His primary academic interest is the post-war cultural history of East Asia’s democracies. His contributions to the Feeding the City project include media analysis and liaising with external organizations. Jeffrey’s non-academic interests include trying new restaurants in the Markham-Scarborough area and cheering on the Cleveland Browns.

 Lindsay Goodridge

Lindsay Goodridge is completing a Master of Public Health specializing in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Toronto. Her areas of focus include food security, health equity, healthy public policy, and weight-neutral approaches to health care. For Feeding the City, Lindsay is working with the Coalition for Healthy School Food to investigate the effects of COVID-19 on school food programs as well as how school food programs can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. Outside of academia, Lindsay enjoys archery both from the ground and horseback, good books, and cake decorating. She admits she is not a good cake decorator, but enjoys it nonetheless.

Past Junior Researchers

Amira Namasivayam

Amira is in her final year at University of Toronto studying a double major in Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease as well as Mental Health. Her passion in food systems developed when volunteering at a food bank where she got firsthand experiences with clients. Outside of her work and academics, she likes painting, swimming, gardening and discovering new foods.

Angela Gong

Angela is in her third year at U of T, specializing in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is interested in the effects of species interactions and environmental change at the community and ecosystem levels, and how these biological interactions can be harnessed to optimize sustainable food systems. As a Junior Researcher, Angela is working with Toronto Urban Growers to study how COVID-19 has affected community gardens and urban farms in Toronto. She will also be writing about her experiences in urban farming with her family. Outside of research, Angela enjoys reading and playing the bassoon.

Chelsea Wong

Chelsea Wong is in her final year of her undergraduate degree studying Political Science, Sociology, and Public Law at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her contributions to the Feeding the City project include aiding with online data collection and analysis of market and food access alternatives. Outside of research, Chelsea’s interests include following politics, watching sports, and reading.

Joseph Cammisuli

Joseph Cammisuli is in his third year of studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough, specializing in Political Science and minoring in History. Joseph is primarily interested in international relations, and how good governance can foster cooperative and sustainable supply chains. In his role with Feeding the City Joseph is a Junior Researcher analyzing local media developments, relating to supply chains and provisioning. Outside of work, Joseph enjoys strong espressos and following Italian league soccer.

Lynne Chia

Lynne is a Master’s student and Research Assistant in the collaborative Food History programme at the University of Toronto. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in History (Honors) at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests, inspired by Singapore’s culturally diverse cuisines, revolves around hawker food systems and claims to national identity. In Feeding The City, she is responsible for special media analysis focused on mainstream news and food systems industry coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of work, Lynne enjoys cooking and spending time with her pets.

Stella-Luna Ha

Stella is in her last year at University of Toronto majoring in Media, Journalism and Digital Cultures, double minoring in Biology and International Development. She currently manages the social media aspect of the project while maintaining her other responsibility as a Junior Researcher. Originally, Stella was drawn to science writing, but she then realized her interest has now expanded to Critical Information Policy Studies and Law. While not being in school or working, Stella enjoys backpacking, learning new languages and fostering many creative outlets.

Sterling Stutz

Sterling Stutz is completing her Masters of Public Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, specializing in Indigenous health and public health policy. Her areas of focus are health equity, healthy public policy, and social justice. In her role with Feeding the City, Sterling is working with The Coalition for Healthy School Food to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected school food programs.


Scarborough and Toronto COVID-19 Rapid-Term Action Initiative, Department of Historical & Cultural Studies; Culinaria Research Centre

%d bloggers like this: