Working Together to Seed Sustainable Food System Transformation

Posted on Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

As humans, our relationship with food is central to our wellbeing. It’s at the center of many of our gatherings with family and friends, holds treasured memories expressed through family recipes, and nourishes us with energy needed to tackle our day.  

However, the way our current food system operates presents a number of challenges. 

Headshot of Erin Nelson
Dr. Erin Nelson

“The mainstream food system is failing communities around the world,” says Dr. Erin Nelson, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph. “Industrial agriculture and globalized food supply chains contribute significantly to the climate and biodiversity crises, widespread food insecurity and poor nutrition, and livelihood instability for smallholder farmers and others.” 

That’s where FLOW comes in – the Food, Learning and Growing Partnership: Seeding Sustainability Transformation. Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant, FLOW is co-led by Nelson, PI Alison Blay-Palmer at Wilfrid Laurier University, and regional teams across Canada as well as in Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, and Australia. The seven-year project focuses on supporting, documenting, and tracking impacts of work to build more resilient food systems. 

With a long track record of community-engaged research and action, Nelson and her colleagues see important opportunities to use food as a lever for positive social and ecological change. In Mexico, Nelson will work with FLOW co-lead Laura Gómez Tovar of Chapingo University and a coalition of farmers and other stakeholders promoting agroecology amongst citrus farmers in the state of Veracruz. They will emphasize how locally based solutions and low-input technologies can enhance community and agroecosystem resilience and explore strategies for scaling up impact to a regional level, for example by influencing public policy and institutional practices.  

FLOW will bring together efforts like those in Mexico with initiatives across four continents, building an extensive international network of food system researchers, community partners, and other actors to examine the pathways that have and can be built between community-based sustainable food system interventions and larger-scale regional impacts. The network will serve as a knowledge-exchange platform, helping build capacity for community-led food system innovations that regenerate local environments, enhance food security and nutrition, and provide secure livelihoods.  

To learn more about the project, please contact Erin Nelson at  

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