July 10, 2024

Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy launches new program that aims to demystify complexities of food system

Bank of Montreal funding brings together experts from life sciences, social sciences, and humanities
A group of people stand together

In a world where the food we eat plays a crucial role in both our health and the health of our planet, understanding the complexities of the agricultural system is more important than ever. The Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy was recently awarded significant funding by the Bank of Montreal (BMO), to launch a pioneering program, Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet, which will revolutionize how society perceives and interacts with the food system.

  • Photo above: Panellists at the gift announcement, from left, Dr. Yrjo Koskinen, PhD, professor and BMO Professorship in Sustainable Finance, Haskayne School of Business; moderator Helen Siebel, head of community and employee giving, BMO Financial Group; Guillaume Lhermie; and Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, second vice-chair, Calgary Stampede Board and CEO, CL Ranches. Photos by David Moll, for the University of Calgary

Program objectives

A man wearing a cowboy hat and University of Calgary shirt

UCalgary President and Vice-Chancellor Ed McCauley announces a $1-million donation from BMO to launch a groundbreaking program to change how society perceives and interacts with the food system.

The Simpson Centre and its strategic academic partners — 13 universities across Canada, as well as Stanford University in the U.S. — will conduct outreach and research on the matter of food systems. With a projected duration of five years, the primary goal of Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet is to foster a deeper understanding of the food choices we make and the design of agricultural policies. By engaging with stakeholders through open and transparent communication, the program aims to empower individuals and policy-makers alike to make informed decisions that promote sustainable food systems.

Collaborative approach

The approach is built on collaboration, bringing together experts from diverse fields such as life sciences, social sciences, and humanities. By leveraging the collective knowledge of academia, industry professionals, farmers, and Indigenous communities, the program aspires to create a comprehensive understanding of agricultural issues and their impact on society.

Addressing barriers

The Simpson Centre recognizes there are significant barriers to achieving sustainable food systems, including cultural norms, urban-rural divides, and the influence of social media. Through targeted outreach and research, the centre will work to overcome these barriers and promote positive change in food habits and agricultural policies.

Key deliverables

Over the course of the program, it will deliver a range of written, digital, and in-person resources to support its objectives. This includes foundational content, controversy-mapping tools, surveys to measure consumer knowledge, and a citizens’ assembly to engage with diverse perspectives.

A man speaks into a microphone

Guillaume Lhermie addresses attendees and introduces the Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet program.

Guillaume Lhermie, director of the Simpson Centre, says, “The program is designed to reach a broad range of audiences, including formal stakeholders such as research, industry, and government, as well as informal audiences such as consumers and citizens. We are particularly focused on engaging young adults and teenagers who are active on social media and eager to participate in shaping the future of food systems.”

Building a sustainable future

At the heart of Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet is a commitment to sustainability. By fostering dialogue, promoting education, and empowering communities, the centre's staff believe they can create a more resilient and equitable food system for generations to come.

Over the course of the next five transformative years, the Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet program will leave an indelible mark on the Canadian landscape, empowering citizens with knowledge and arming them with diverse perspectives to become active participants in shaping the future of agriculture. 

The program’s legacy will be echoed through policies that prioritize sustainability, nourishing both people and the planet for generations to come.

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