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Ground-up solutions

Terra Nova Young Innovator focusing on community-driven food policy project

By Jeff Green

With the second-highest rate of food insecurity in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador has a real problem when it comes to accessing affordable healthy food.

As the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, there’s growing concern for vulnerable households deeply affected by food insecurity.

However, a Memorial University researcher wants to develop sustainable solutions to the food system problem in this province.

Dr. Sarah Martin, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is the 2020 recipient of the lucrative Terra Nova Young Innovator award, valued at $50,000.

An expert in food politics and policy, Dr. Martin is working with Food First NL, the provincial non-profit organization dedicated to advancing food security, to lead a community-driven project to increase capacity for the organization.

From left are Dr. Sarah Martin and Josh Smee, alumnus and chief executive officer with Food First NL.
From left are Dr. Sarah Martin and Josh Smee, alumnus and chief executive officer with Food First NL.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

‘Innovative local solutions’

Newfoundland and Labrador used to be a model province due to its programs that reduced food insecurity, but now almost 15 per cent of households are food insecure, Dr. Martin says.

“At a time when food insecurity is rising and in the face of a pandemic, which is no doubt worsening it, this project builds on scholarship that shows the importance of civil society partnerships with academia to develop ground-up solutions to a more just and sustainable food system,” she said.

“The project builds on local knowledge to foster and develop innovative local solutions to the challenge of food insecurity.”

Significant impact

The Terra Nova Young Innovator Award is presented to exceptional young faculty members whose research is particularly innovative and whose specific proposal has real potential to make a significant impact on society.

The award is supported through $50,000 in funding from Suncor, on behalf of the partners in the Terra Nova oil field.

Community-led collaboration

As part of her collaboration with Food First NL, Dr. Martin is supporting a community-led food assessment, which will bring together stakeholders in the St. John’s area.

Dr. Martin says that group will help map and rebuild a food system that is founded on ethical foodways.

“Dr. Martin’s visionary research and leadership is a great example of social innovation.” — Karen Kelly

The project will be community-driven and will highlight local knowledge and skills through a creative partnership between academia and the wider community.

Dr. Martin says the partnership will have “real-world impact from the bottom up” and the aim is to involve groups and people who are the most food insecure.

She also says she hopes the project will help transform the St. John’s food system to ensure there are “more ethical and equitable outcomes.”

“I am grateful that work on Newfoundland and Labrador food security and food sovereignty has been honoured and valued with the Terra Nova Award,” she added.

‘Positive change’

“On behalf of Terra Nova partners, we are proud to support Dr. Martin and her important work that has the potential to lead to positive change in our community,” said Karen Kelly, general manager for Suncor’s East Coast assets.

“Dr. Martin’s visionary research and leadership is a great example of social innovation. It illustrates how cross sectors can work together – and work differently – to develop solutions to complex social, economic and environmental challenges.”

‘Leading-edge’ research

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), congratulates Dr. Martin and applauds Suncor and the partners in the Terra Nova oil field for their continued collaboration.

“Dr. Martin’s proposal exemplifies the leading-edge research that the Terra Nova Young Innovator Award supports – work that has the potential to make a real and significant impact on society,” he said.

“Food insecurity is a growing concern not just in Newfoundland and Labrador, but worldwide. Through the generous contribution of Suncor and its partners, Memorial is able to provide promising young faculty members such as Dr. Martin the opportunities to explore important areas of research. I congratulate her on receiving this award and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of her project.”

More about the Terra Nova Young Innovator Award, as well its criteria and terms of reference, is available online.

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