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Measuring Food Sustainability

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on October 23, 2023 in Alumni & Friends, News
Students in the field with Laurel Schut
Students in the field with Laurel Schut

Experiential learning is a hallmark of the programs offered in the Faculty of Agriculture and a 10-day intensive course offered for the first time this past summer was no different.

MEASURING FOOD SUSTAINABILITY is a three-credit hour course condensed into 10 days and split between the Halifax and Truro campuses of Dalhousie University.  This is the first course specifically designed to bring together students from the Truro and Halifax campuses since merger in 2012.

“I have found, one of the best ways to have a meaningful learning experience is to immerse yourself deeply into a big question,” explained co-instructor Dr. Paul Manning.  “A two-week field course that combines hands-on activities, conversation with leaders in the realm of sustainable food, and structured collaboration with a dynamic and interdisciplinary cohort is an excellent recipe for achieving such an experience.”

This field course explores how food sustainability is measured and evaluated across different disciplines and emphasizes the impacts food systems have on the sustainability of the planet, the livelihoods of food producers, and equitable accessibility for individuals.

Daily hands-on, active, and experiential learning is emphasized throughout the course.  Course activities and assessments ranged from measuring food sovereignty and food justice at the Loaded Ladle, to a summative design challenge exploring a possible solution to a food sustainability measurement challenge.

Ziwei Jin, a second year Integrated Environmental Management student from China, participated in the course this past summer.

“I think sustainability is a very important issue, explained Ziwei.  “It involves agriculture, industry, social development, and even morals and ethics, you can discuss almost any topic under the topic of sustainability, and I got a lot out of it.”

Students had a hands-on opportunity to work with the Loaded Ladle on the Halifax campus preparing two vegetarian dishes.

“We were involved in every step of the process, from washing the vegetables to chopping them, making the sauce, sending them to the oven, until they were plated. At the end we had to bring back the dirty dishes, explained Ziwei.

The Loaded Ladle is a levied student society that provides accessible, sustainable, locally sourced, free food on the Dalhousie University campus in Halifax.   The Loaded Ladle offers a free lunch program and community programs that critically examine barriers to food sovereignty, food security, and food justice.

“The process of designing and delivering this course was a very positive experience from start to finish,” said co-instructor Laurel Schut of the Dalhousie College of Sustainability.  “It was so rewarding to see students explore a new campus, connect with others from different programs, get their hands dirty, and challenge their own beliefs about food sustainability.”

Participants also had the opportunity to measure environmental education initiatives and impact at Hope Blooms, review municipal responses to food insecurity with Truro Town councillor Cathy Hinton and multiple guest talks and field tours with groups such as Birds Canada, Holdanca Farms, Cultiv8 and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

The next offering of this course will be in the summer of 2024.