How we can all get involved: A university student’s story and perspective

Alison Springate Guelph Smart City Office • 25 January 2019

I am a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Guelph. I study agriculture, so my interest in the City of Guelph’s “Our Food Future” proposal for the Smart Cities challenge makes sense! I am sharing my story of how I came to be involved in the submission of the final proposal, the chance to receive $10 million to implement the city’s plan for a circular food economy in Guelph-Wellington.

One of the main steps in developing the proposal is community engagement. There are many types of communities to engage, including small businesses, industries, policymakers, researchers and city residents. Everyone in the Guelph-Wellington community has a role in a circular food economy. Engagement can be in the form of formal meetings between representatives or it can be tabling in public spaces. I first spoke to a member of the Food Future team at a table in the University Centre in October 2018.

When I saw the words “circular food economy” and “food future” on the sign, I felt myself gravitate towards the table. Oh, and there was a basket of apples on the table as well! Without a lot of knowledge, these words speak to me. “Circular food economy” brings to mind “cycles” and natural processes in the environment that are sustainable, supplying organisms, like people, with necessary services. “Food future” brings to mind the concept of supplying enough nutritious food to supply future generations sustainably. These concepts are explored regularly in my agriculture courses. It is important that the global community at large support sustainable food practices, during growing, sharing and consuming food. And here the City of Guelph is, tackling the issue of sustainable food system directly, and they want our support and our ideas!

 Young people today are really concerned about the environment and social justice, and addressing food production and accessibility issues is one way to make an impact in both of these areas. After chatting with city representatives – and grabbing a couple apples – I went to class, but kept in mind the proposal.

This semester I applied for a course that includes a co-op position in the agri-food sector. I reached out to City of Guelph asking if I could be involved. With the deadline fast approaching, I will be involved in community engagement. With many businesses, industries and researchers on board, the city is focusing on reaching out to residents, to inform and receive their thoughts on how a circular food economy may benefit or challenge them. A good proposal needs to identify and address concerns as well.

I hope that this story shows how we all can relate to and benefit from the implementation of Our Food Future – and that we can all be involved. Right now, as the deadline approaches, involvement means informing ourselves, spreading the word and acknowledging our food practices today and how they can become more “circular.” We can make personal changes; even before a circular food economy may be implemented.

I may see you in the community, helping the City of Guelph share Our Food Future information!

~ by Heather B.