Dawson Gardens: A conference by Anna-Liisa Aunio

Dawson Gardens:
A conference by Anna-Liisa Aunio
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“From Food Security to Food Justice: Establishing a framework to address inequality and sustainability in urban food systems”

Anna-Liisa Aunio, a sociology professor at Dawson college who specialises in food politics, is known for her involvement in Dawson College’s rooftop garden. It is made up of three major parts: the edible rooftop garden, the ecological peace garden, and the bees and pollinators. At a conference sponsored by the Insititute for Health and Social Policy, she discussed her initiative, and her will to implement environmentally sustainable practices within the cegep. A sustainable food system is defined by CRC Research as “a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being”.  The rooftop garden allows vegetables to be grown on site in order to present students with the option of purchasing affordable and healthy food. Essentially, Anna-Liisa is attempting to establish a sustainable food system which exemplifies ideas such as food security and food justice.

On top of the economic and environmental benefits that the gardens presents, this initiative also engenders several social benefits. The act of volunteering is beneficial for students given that it inspires a sense of pride; they are proud of the work they do. Also, the diversity of those involved allows for mutual learning and understanding. Notably, Anna-Liisa mentioned how the intermingling of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students created a sense of trust between the two. The opportunity to learn and grow from each other was made possible through their common interest in the gardens and Dawson’s sustainability.

Anna-Liisa ended the talk by going beyond sustainability practices within Dawson and discussing ideas of food security and food justice in reference to national issues. She started by examining definitions of these terms in order to underline just how ambiguous they can be. Diets vary depending on location, culture, and access. Thus, we cannot have generalized definitions of food security and food justice. She suggested that we need to examine the transference from policy to practice because there are too many different variables to consider in terms of these ideas. To exemplify such issues, the Dawson professor discussed the rising levels of food insecurity in Nunavut and discussed the issues and varying opinions surrounding food banks. Anna-Liisa was able to connect these vast issues to the small steps being taken within Dawson, reinforcing the importance and significance of the Dawson Gardens.

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