Students in the Spotlight - Amira Babeiti

October 15, 2020 by School of Cities Staff
"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.

Amira Babeiti is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architectural Studies

  • What are you currently working on?
    I am currently working on building up the recently incorporated not-for-profit organization, Global Sustainable Foods. In Canada our goal is to connect surplus produce from local farmers to not-for-profit organizations, which target environmental and social impacts in local communities vulnerable to food insecurity. One of our main goals is to enable self-governance and encourage everyday citizens to take control over their food consumption. We hope to create a digital consumer-driven supply chain that will address the critical problem of food surplus and food insecurity.

  • What are your research and engagement interests?
    Over the summer, I have had the opportunity to engage with farmers in and around the Greater Toronto Area. On my trips, I've learned that it is becoming increasingly difficult for small scale farms to sustain themselves in the wake of urbanization. This has encouraged me to gear my research interests in seeking out sustainable local farms, and how to create linkages between agricultural practices and city life. I’m also interested in learning about sustainable farming practices outside of Canada, particularly in Lebanon. I’m learning that small scale farmers, whether in Canada or Lebanon, are often highly vulnerable. I’m excited to continue learning, developing and implementing strategies to strengthen the ties between local food producers and consumers. I believe that there is a necessity to create innovative mechanisms to familiarize communities with urban agriculture, and to connect them to their local farmers.

  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?
    As a first generation Canadian, having had the opportunity to visit Lebanon on a frequent basis in the summer, I have sadly witnessed the unfolding crisis the country is facing. This instilled a burning desire within me to find ways to give back to the Lebanese people. During my research, I found that the issue of food insecurity was an experience faced by both Lebanese and Canadian citizens. This discovery has motivated me to find intersecting solutions in how small scale farming has the capacity to enable security, and self-governance. I understand that my initiative is one amongst the thousands which are needed to heal a country. I want to set an example on how the Lebanese diaspora has the capacity to aid in the rehabilitation of both communities they belong to. I believe that the issue of food insecurity is global, and there is a demand to find solutions to make an inter-connected difference.

  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact? 
    The pandemic has revealed the precariousness of spectacle and the need to go back to the drawing board to define real problems. If a solution is not resilient to events like COVID-19 it is inherently unequal as the burden of the current pandemic has fallen disproportionately on the poor. Mass support for innovation is key to creating a tide that lifts all boats. The organization that I’ve established as a result of my research thus far has partnered with the not-for-profit organization, Ardi-Ardak. I am working to contribute both long and short term solutions to empower local sustainable food systems in Canada and Lebanon. I am searching for answers as to how to simultaneously connect local food networks on an international front beyond importing and exporting services. There is a demand for a food-network that honours the interdependent state of the world today, I’m thrilled to have Global Sustainable Foods as a platform to create a positive change from the research I have gathered today, and will continue to gather after my time with School of Cities.

  • What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
    In October, Global Sustainable Foods will launch a pilot project ‘food security’ market in Kensington Market, Toronto, to raise awareness about food insecurity. We have partnered with the on-campus food bank, the non-profit PiecelalPeace, the 3 Beets to the Wind Farm, and student artists in the Greater Toronto Area, to model the effectiveness of creating new strategies to aid in the fight of saving food surplus and encouraging local food production. It is a unique market that offers a snapshot into how there is value in rethinking and bringing agricultural systems closer to the urban center.

  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
    I have learned that the impact of the pandemic has left Canada with a surplus of foods that needs to be redistributed to vulnerable communities, and unfortunately, it has impacted Lebanon with a severe food insecurity crisis. I believe that there is a necessity for innovation and solutions to create a balance in the realm of food production and distribution. What the pandemic has taught me is that all countries are impacted by the issue of food insecurity, and governments need to mobilize support at a micro-scale to strengthen linkages between local farmers and their communities.

  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
    I am very fortunate for the support and network of scholars that SofC has provided. Being a member has given me access to mentors who have challenged me, to say the least, on how to seek out answers to questions I have in regards to food systems. I am looking forward to staying connected to SofC, after my time with the Academy has ended. This is a space for forward thinking, innovation and hope. I believe that this is an environment that enables growth, and that is something that I am actively seeking.


Student Bio:

Amira is a fourth-year student in Architectural Studies and minoring in Human Geography, Amira Babeiti has made it her mission to understand the transformation of Lebanon, from being the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ into a present-day urban dystopia. She is a first generation Canadian whose parents emigrated to Canada during the Lebanese Civil War. Their turbulent past acted as a catalyst which inspired her academic and field research on Lebanon’s Urban Realm. She has contributed to the establishment of a classroom for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon’s rural community of Ketermaya.