Food systems in the shadow of the pandemic: some thoughts on building more resilient food systems post-Covid

When and Where

Monday, March 01, 2021 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm


Professor Evan Fraser, Director, Arrell Food Institute; Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation; Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society


In this talk Dr. Fraser will try to do two things. First, he will reflect on what he learned facilitating the “growing stronger” initiative, which attempted to distill how the Covid 19 pandemic affected Canada’s food system. In this, you will be drawing on a series of interviews with food bank workers, representatives of farmers groups, and executives from food retailers to show that while Canada’s food system “bent but didn’t break” during 2020, major problems came to the surface that need to be addressed. In the second part of this talk, he will reflect on potential strategies that may be useful in building more resilient regional food systems. In this part of this talk, he will try to explore some of the trade-offs between having “resilient” systems versus having “efficient” systems as well as the way in which both novel technologies and government policy may play a role in balancing these two imperatives. 

Speaker Bio

Dr. Fraser 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.  

Today, Evan works with large multi-disciplinary teams on developing solutions to help feed the world’s growing population while not destroying the ecosystems on which we depend for life. 

This is a School of Cities Seminar Series "Building Resilience in Food and Health Supply Chains"

Supply chains are the primary societal infrastructure for the production, delivery, and recycling of goods and services. Though sometimes invisible, supply chains are the systems that ensure that flour is available in your grocery store, that hospitals have sufficient personal protective equipment, and that there are enough trained staff to administer medical tests, deliver babies, and check-out your groceries. While much of the effort in supply chains over the past 50 years has been to make them agile, fast, and cheap, there is a growing realization that supply chains must be able to adapt to disruptions from local events such as the inability for a plane to land due to weather to global changes such as the closing of the US-Canada border due to COVID-19.

This seminar series seeks to develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of resilient supply chains by examining two which are of critical importance to everyday life: food and health supply chains. The talks in this series look at these supply chains, both independently and together, through the inclusion of diverse speakers representing at least the following perspectives:

  • Supply Chain Optimization 
  • Northern and Remote Food and Health Security
  • Urban Food Systems
  • Systems of Food Production
  • Healthcare Systems

Register here