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The Food Health Ecosystems Lab is a university research hub, founded in 2022, to investigate human health in relation to food and ecosystems. We use a critical social science lens to understand the social and political impacts of food-related socio-natural systems, such as produce supply chains, urban agriculture projects, and the human gut microbiome. By better understanding the ways that these systems interact with society, we aim to support more sustainable and just food systems.

Urban Food Sovereignty in a Global Marketplace: Tracking produce supply chains to assess food security and food sovereignty in Toronto and region, 2021-present

Objectives: This study takes stock of the produce supply chains that feed the Greater Toronto Area in a sociopolitical and historical context. We are tracking the flows of fruits and vegetables that circulate through the Ontario Food Terminal, the country’s largest wholesale produce market and third largest on the continent, as well as culturally-­significant produce from South Asia that arrives via a parallel supply chain. 

Context: Critical food system scholars have long warned that food supply chains of the global food system are brittle — their just­-in-time sourcing not resilient to unpredictable shocks such as extreme weather events and labour disruption.

Researchers and Partners: 

  • Dr. Sarah Elton at Toronto Metropolitan University is overseeing research into produce supply chains
  • Dr. Jayeeta Sharma at the University of Toronto Scarborough is heading up a historical analysis of the Ontario Food Terminal, including conducting oral history interviews with people who have worked at the Terminal, or who work there now
  • Dr. Evan Fraser at the University of Guelph
  • City of Toronto

Funding: The study is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Eating for Two Trillion: Thinking critically about the social production of the human gut microbiome in relation to food and diet

Objectives and context: There has been an explosion of interest in recent biomedical research into the human microbiome–some call this attention “microbiomania.” We are using our critical health researcher skills to unpack how this science is produced and better understand the role of the gut microbiome in both food systems and society.

Global food supply under pressure? Investigating the impact of COVID-19 at the Ontario Food Terminal, 2020-2021

Objectives: In the first year of the pandemic, we tracked the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s largest wholesale produce terminal, the Ontario Food Terminal. 

Context: The Terminal is a marketplace for fruits and vegetables destined for consumers in Toronto, the rest of Ontario and into Quebec, the Atlantic Provinces and some American states. 

Researchers and Partners: 

  • Dr. Evan Fraser at the University of Guelph

Funding: This study was funded by the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Sociology.