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Global Urban Food Policy: The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute Delegates at the WC2 Symposium in Toronto

Global Urban Food Policy: The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute Delegates at the WC2 Symposium in Toronto


In August 2018, delegates from the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute attended the fourth World Cities World Class University Network (WC2) Symposium on the topic of “Migration, the City, and the University” at Ryerson University in Toronto. The WC2 Network, of which CUNY is a member, brings together top universities based in ten global cities around the world – New York City, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, London, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Melbourne, and Toronto – with the shared goal of finding solutions to some of the world’s most urgent and complex urban challenges.

WC2 Annual Symposia bring together scholars, PhD Students, and practitioners from each of these cities and provide space for a global dialogue and collaboration in five overarching streams – global health, business, transport, eco-campus, and knowledge, culture, and urban affairs. This year, at the request of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, a sixth stream on food policy was added. Chaired by Professor Fiona Yeudall, Director of the Ryerson University Centre for Studies in Food Security (CSFS), it included sessions on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets, Urban Food Policy, Urban Food Systems & Immigration, Public Food Systems. In addition, an expert panel explored how to create a national nutrition program for children and youth in Canada with Senator (and former Toronto mayor) Art Eggleton. See CUNY Institute Professor Jan Poppendieck’s recommendations to the Canadian Senate here.

Institute delegates included Dr. Nick Freudenberg (Institute Director and Distinguished Professor of Public Health), Dr. Jan Poppendieck (Senior Faculty Fellow at the Institute and Professor Emerita of Sociology at Hunter College), Dr. Melissa Fuster Rivera (Institute Faculty Fellow and Assistant Professor in Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College), Dr. Rositsa Ilieva (Food Policy Monitor Director at the Institute), and Emma Vignola (Institute Fellow and doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy) [read more about our team here].

Professor Jan Poppendieck (left) and Food Policy Monitor Director Dr. Rositsa Ilieva (right) presenting in the Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets session.

In the Food Policy session on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets, moderated by Dr. Yeudall, Dr. Poppendieck presented a detailed account of the intricate pathway to universal free lunch for public school students in New York, accomplished in September 2017. Dr. Ilieva offered an overview of global city efforts to integrate healthy and sustainable food systems goals in city and regional planning, drawing on her international research and book on the topic.

Debbie Fields, Ryerson University Visiting Practitioner and Toronto-based Food Security Advocate (left) and Professor Nick Freudenberg (right) leading the Food for Talk Lunch on the topic of Public Food Systems. Left front is Diana Johnson, former staff member at CUNY Institute, now with Toronto Department of Health’s Food Policy Council.

In a session on Urban Food Policy, Professor Freudenberg shared key lessons and policy recommendations from the Institute’s recent study on the past ten years of urban food policy and monitoring in New York City (check out our report on Food Policy in New York Since 2008 Lessons for the Next Decade). He also co-led a lunch seminar on the topic of public food systems with Visiting Practitioner and leader of the Toronto food security movement Debbie Fields (read more about Debbie’s work at FoodShare here). Participants discussed the rationale for placing the emphasis on public food systems in the context of austerity policies to roll back recent expansions of food programs in several countries.

Dr. Melissa Fuster Rivera and Institute Fellow Emma Vignola presented their research in a session on the topic of Urban Food Systems and Immigration. Dr. Fuster Rivera shared findings from her most recent research on diet, culture and health of Caribbeans in New York City and the Caribbean – based on interviews with 27 key informants including New York City residents, dietitians, and restaurant workers. Her study highlighted the importance of connecting food, immigrants, and livelihoods in food policy research and practice.


Institute Faculty Fellow and Assistant Professor Melissa Fuster Rivera (left) and PhD Candidate Emma Vignola (right) presenting in the Urban Food Systems and Immigration session.

Vignola summarized her research on the growing climate of fear and uncertainty regarding US immigrants’ ability to use public food programs as a result of budget cuts and impending changes to federal immigration policies. She presented the policy recommendations from the Institute’s 2018 report Expanding Immigrant Access to Food Benefits in NYC and State).

Other delegates in the Food Policy Stream included Former Institute staff member Diana Johnson (now Health Research Specialist with the Toronto Food Policy Council) who presented the City of Toronto’s experience with using food as a vehicle for newcomer/refugee settlement; Professor Martin Caraher (City, University of London) who called attention to the impact of austerity on food security in the UK and the importance of linking health and food policies with city planning and advancing urban food governance; PhD Candidate Natalie Neumann (City, University of London) who presented her ongoing PhD research on food governance and farmers markets in London; Taryn Risdale and Barbara Emanuel with the City of Toronto who presented outcomes of the food resilience and vulnerability assessment of Toronto's food system; and Dr. José Alberto Rivera-Márquez (with Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City) who shared insights from his work on public health and the right to food in Mexico City. Other presenters based at the Ryerson University Centre for Studies in Food Security described their food policy and nutrition research in Vietnam, Brazil, and Toronto.