upStream Open House – Getting Fresh in York Region / Soirée porte ouverte d’upStream : fraîcheur garantie pour la région de York

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

York Region Food Network is addressing the issue of food security through an interesting and innovative project. Through collaborative partnerships and a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, upStream Aquaponics has been launched to pilot sustainable and healthy food development throughout the year.

Le réseau alimentaire de la région de York (York Region Food Network) aborde le problème de l’insécurité alimentaire par un moyen original et innovant. Grâce à des partenariats et des collaborations, et avec une bourse des Centres d’excellence de l’Ontario, upStream Aquaponics a entrepris de guider, au cours de l’année qui vient, le développement durable de l’offre d’aliments sains.

AquaponicsYork KMb had the pleasure of attending an Open House for a project led by the York Region Food Network (YRFN) which has realized development of an aquaponics lab – an urban agriculture innovation hub.  This facility is located in Newmarket, ON, steps away from the GO train station in Newmarket.   Approximately 30 people attended to learn more about the aquaponics lab and to tour the facilities.  YRFN Executive Director Joan Stonehocker addressed the crowd in attendance, identifying that this experiment is an important step for YRFN and the local community to address sustainable food development, healthy eating and food security for neighboring communities.

The KMb Unit at York University was approached by YRFN to partner in support of a research and development opportunity for their successful Ontario Centres of Excellence application, which provided direct funding support for the development of the aquaponics lab.  According to YRFN, the lab is producing 800 heads of lettuce each month and almost 150 tilapia.  Food is distributed through the Good Food Box program to underprivileged residents in the community, local restaurants as well as through an emerging retail operation.

With food insecurity identified by YRFN and United Way York Region as a community priority, KMb is a proud partner of this project and is seeking engagement from interested researchers on an ongoing basis.  Efficacy, economic, health and environmental themes are all prevalent in the development of an aquaponics lab.  Our office was also proud to support an event on Friday April 4, which YRFN hosted around Food Waste.  York graduate students and researchers from the University of Guelph participated in the presentations and workshops that were aimed to promote education, awareness and an action agenda around food security and food waste management in York Region.

KMb engages in a wide range of activities bridging and enabling research to help inform public policy and professional practice.  Based on the samples I was able to consume following the Open House, YRFN and their upStream project are well positioned to have a significant and positive impact on communities in York Region.  Add a nice balsamic vinaigrette and we’re taking KMb to the next level!

Aquaponic Lettuce


Researchers and Knowledge Mobilizers Both Know: Food is Important / Les chercheurs et les agents de mobilisation le savent : la bouffe, ça compte

Shawna Reibling, RIR – Laurier

Sometimes when mobilizing knowledge and brokering relationships, it is the environment and soft skills that make for a positive interaction. Knowledge mobilization and brokering can take place over the dinner table. 

Quand il s’agit de mobiliser [s1] les connaissances et de tisser des échanges, il arrive que ce soit l’ambiance et le savoir-être – les compétences relationnelles – qui transforment une rencontre en interaction décisive. La mobilisation et le courtage des connaissances se font aussi autour de la table.

Alison Blay-Palmer“Farmers’ markets sell good quality, fresh food. There is a shorter food chain and consumers know where it’s coming from,” says Alison Blay-Palmer, a local food researchers and co-Director of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

Blay-Palmer is being recognized as one of three finalists for an award recognizing her partnerships with the community. She is working with local farmers, exploring how to improve opportunities for farmers to increase their capacity for making local food sustainable and viable. The award is being offered by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The winner will be announced in October in Montreal.

“Food is a social vehicle and it makes connections with people,” Blay-Palmer has commented. This is true both in her research, but also for the work of knowledge mobilization. Having a welcoming space for people wanting to learn about your work includes: comfortable chairs, chairs that work for people with disabilities, food, drink and a good temperature. These are all parts of the “set up” of brokering a relationship between two people, or an information sharing seminar for 20 people.

Picture of vegetables, a farmers market and a goat

These soft-skills and environmental factors of good relationship building are critical to good knowledge mobilization, as well as good facilitation.

What other lessons can we learn from the dinner table that we can apply to knowledge mobilization work?

For more information about Alison’s work please visit:

Winter Weather Knowledge Mobilization / Mobilisation des connaissances hivernale

Erin Nelson, RIR-Guelph

Erin Nelson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph’s ICES/The Research Shop. A specialist in food security and sustainable food systems, one of the projects she is currently coordinating focuses on supporting efforts in Ontario to connect children and youth to good food, through experiential education, school meal programs, and other innovative endeavours.

Erin Nelson est stagiaire post-doctorale à l’ICES/The Research Shop de l’Université de Guelph. Spécialiste en sécurité alimentaire et en systèmes alimentaires durables, elle coordonne présentement un projet ontarien qui soutient les efforts de mise en contact des enfants et des jeunes avec la nourriture saine. Cela se fait à travers l’éducation expérientielle, les programmes alimentaires scolaires et d’autres initiatives innovantes.

Many people probably remember this past February 8th – the day that Winter Storm Nemo (or “Snowpocalypse”) hit Ontario, shutting down roads, leaving people stranded in airports, and causing school closures, among other things. As a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph’s Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES), my normal reaction to the university’s decision to close due to extreme weather would be glee. (I truly love my job but, as a lifelong winter enthusiast, I love a good snow day as well.) Unfortunately, February 8th was the day I had scheduled the “Say ‘Yes!’ to Good Food Education Design Charrette” – the cornerstone event of a KTT project I’m coordinating.

Erin Nelson wearing cross-country skis

Erin Nelson

With funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) KTT Funding Program (part of the Ministry’s partnership with the University of Guelph), the Good Food Education Project involves collaborative research and KTT to promote efforts aimed at connecting children and youth in Ontario to ‘good food’, or food that is healthy for people, the environment, and the province’s farm economy. The main community collaborators on the project are Sustain Ontario, Ontario Agri-Food Education (OAFE), FoodShare, and Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre; however, many more stakeholders from Ontario’s food education sector – from teachers and school boards, to public health units, to non-profit agencies, to policy-makers – have been involved as well, and much of the project work is being done by volunteer graduate student interns at ICES’ ‘Research Shop’. All of us were incredibly excited to be coming together for a full day of networking, information-sharing, and collaborative planning, so the 6am announcement of a snow day – and automatic cancellation of the event – was a big disappointment.

By 8:00 am I had checked in with Sustain Ontario Director Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker. She was already in Guelph, along with steering committee members of Ontario’s new Child and Youth Food Network, who had travelled from across the province for a day of strategic planning ahead of the charrette. They were all gathered at their hotel, so we decided to make some knowledge mobilization happen in spite of a winter storm’s best efforts to stop us. I strapped on my cross-country skis and headed out to meet them. My frustration at the weather’s bad timing was alleviated by the cheerful encouragement I received from passersby as I made my way through the snowy streets to the Best Western, where I arrived somewhat disheveled  with a thick coating of ice on my hair. The journey was well worth it, as I had the chance to engage face-to-face with people who have a direct stake in the food education work we are doing. They were enthusiastic about the research that has been done to date – eager to share results online and use them to aid their action planning. That enthusiasm, and everyone’s evident passion for good food education, was infectious, passing to me and, at a meeting the following week, to the project interns. We are all now busy planning for the rescheduled charrette, which will be held Friday, April 19th at Guelph’s Arboretum Centre.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the event, or the Good Food Education project in general, feel free to contact me. I’m also happy to provide tips on extreme winter weather knowledge mobilization strategies.

Food Security KM in the AM- Jan 25

The YorkU KMb Unit will be hosting a KM of the AM event on Tuesday, January 25th. The topic of the morning will focus on food security, with brief presentations by researchers and community leaders, followed by ample time for questions, discussion, and networking.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Rod MacRae, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
  • Joan Stonehocker, Executive Director, York Region Food Network

Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Time: 10:00 to 12:30 pm. Lunch will be served at 11:30.

Location: York Regional Food Network Office. 510 Penrose Street, Newmarket, L3Y 1A2

Space is limited. Kindly RSVP to confirm your attendance.