Rethinking sustainability in our food system
This month, the Faculty of Environmental Studies has chosen to spotlight Dr. Rod MacRae in celebration of World Food Day on October 16 and his research in the field of Canadian food policy. MacRae began his academic career at Acadia University, where he earned a BA in history. Following his time in Nova Scotia, MacRae earned an MSc and PhD in agriculture at McGill University. His expertise in food and agricultural policy decision-making has led to years of research on sustainable solutions to challenges in the food system in Canada.
An Associate Professor in FES, MacRae’s research examines the transition to sustainable, healthy, and equitable food systems in Canada and he has long advocated for the creation of a national food policy that minimizes food waste, manages supply and demand in the food system, and localizes agricultural production. He lauded FES for its inter-disciplinary approach to research and learning which has allowed him to explore solutions to environmental problems in the food sector.
Through the courses he teaches, MacRae has been able to challenge students to assess problems within the food system, while further guiding them toward exploring the policy changes to shift the industry’s current trajectory. His pursuits outside of the classroom have included extensive academic writing, published press articles, and consultation for government, businesses and NGOs. He was part of the adhoc working group on food policy governance that made a case for a national food policy in Canada in 2017. Earlier, he developed with Elizabeth Abergel a reference module on Food Policy in Canada (2016) with Elsevier as well as co-edited with her a book on Health and Sustainability in the Canadian Food System: Advocacy and Opportunity for Civil Society (2012).
His solutions are being assembled on his web site, foodpolicyforcanada.info.yorku.ca. Conducted in collaboration with academics and graduate students at FES and other institutions, MacRae’s research seeks to identify the systemic changes that need to be prioritized in a national food policy. The federal government recently announced a national food policy and while it has some important elements, much of it remains weak and in need of significant improvements. “By initiating a paradigm shift in how we think about food systems, we can achieve a joined-up food policy which promotes greater health, justice and sustainability in our food system,” MacRae enthused.