Voices from the Food Frontlines

Voices from the Food Frontlines brings listeners stories of resiliency, grassroots actions, and sustainable transitions, from field-to-table. A podcast series and public scholarship project produced by the Feeding City Lab at the University of Toronto, episodes feature community-engaged research and conversations with local food stakeholders in Toronto and in cities around the world. Focusing on how people come together to overcome food system crises, Voices from the Food Frontlines highlights experiences, innovations, aspirations, and actions towards socially and ecologically resilient foodways – in urban growing spaces and market gardens, at public markets and small food enterprises, through community kitchens and emergency food supports, and across the rural-urban networks that support regenerative farming and farmer livelihoods beyond city limits. https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/feedingcity/

Listen on:

  • Podbean App
  • Spotify


Thursday Apr 18, 2024

With climate change and increased rural-urban migration, how can communities become self-reliant to ensure nutritious food security? In this episode, Feeding City Lab graduate intern Geetha Sukumaran brings listeners along on the Lab team’s recent research trip to South India. They met with local cooks, food retailers, farmers, and farmer collectives to learn about the challenges they face, the solutions they are implementing, and the changes that they advocate in order to create more resilient foodways. The episode spotlights Sheelu, President of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, a grassroots organization that brings together more than 100 000 women from across the local food system, including farmers and agricultural labourers, fishers, salt pan workers, cooks, and food processors. Sheelu describes how the Women’s Collective has evolved over the past three decades to focus on the effects of climate change and on finding ways to support farmers.* Heirloom crops – such as the traditional millets that reliably grow even when the rains fail – play a key role. Listeners will learn how women farmers are working together through “seed democracy” to revive heirloom foods - by conserving and exchanging seeds, by promoting access to land, grain processing facilities, and farming tools, by supporting the preparation and distribution of value-added products, and by sharing knowledge from field to kitchen. This episode features an interview with Geetha Sukumaran (recorded in January 2024) and field quotations from Sheelu of the Women’s Collective (recorded in October 2023). 
[* In March 2024, The Women's Collective was recognized at the The Hindu World of Women Awards, receiving The Hindu Excellence in Agriculture & Rural Development Award.] 

Tuesday Mar 19, 2024

How can grassroots efforts in environmental conservation go beyond their local context to help bring about lasting global impact? In this episode on climate-smart food and farming futures, Dr. Jayeeta Sharma of the Feeding City Lab spotlights the Lab’s collaboration with Thanal in South India. Listeners will learn how the Thanal Trust got its start in 1986 as a collective dedicated to the conservation of rivers and biodiversity to then become a leader in community-based “demand-led research,” opening up pathways of agroecological production for small farmers throughout Kerala. The episode highlights Thanal’s current efforts to recover climate resilient ways of cultivating traditional rice and heirloom millet, linking biodiversity to economy to support sustainable foodways and rural livelihoods. This episode features an interview with Dr. Jayeeta Sharma (recorded in January 2024) and field quotations from Jayakumar of Thanal (recorded in October 2023). 
[Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com.] 

Wednesday Mar 06, 2024

The Feeding City Lab introduces its new podcast sub-series, Voices from the Food Frontlines: Sustainable Foodways. Episodes focus on social and ecological resiliency, sharing stories from the field, highlighting grassroots actions, and bringing listeners new research on sustainable foodways and what's needed to make them possible. With insights from the Feeding City Lab’s local and global partners, Voices from the Food Frontlines: Sustainable Foodways offers a view into community collaborations and creative and cutting edge innovations from across the world — from the cultivation of heritage foods and ethnocultural crops to the food work and small enterprises that enable farm-to-table connections. Stay tuned for episodes, starting in Spring 2024!
To learn more, visit the Feeding City Lab's website at: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/feedingcity/

Friday Dec 22, 2023

What is the past, present, and future of farmers’ markets in Scarborough? Toronto’s easternmost neighbourhoods have notoriously lacked sufficient access to vital social infrastructure such as public transit, health care, and fresh, healthy, affordable food. In this episode, Feeding City’s Jasleen Sohal talks with Jennifer Forde about food access and farmers’ markets in Scarborough. Jennifer tells her story of growing up in Scarborough’s Malvern neighbourhood and shares what fueled her to lead the way for farmers’ markets in Scarborough. As a seasoned market manager – Jennifer has overseen several farmers’ markets across the Greater Toronto Area – she first helped bring farmers’ markets to Scarborough five years ago, working with small family farms, women-led enterprises, newcomers, and BIPOC communities to make affordable, nutritious, local produce and culturally diverse artisanal products broadly accessible. She reflects on the operational impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, shedding light on the work of keeping the markets connected to the community and on how the innovations and relationships forged during that time continue to shape Scarborough’s farmers’ markets even today. The episode concludes with a peek into the Scarborough Neighbourhood Fresh Food Pilot, which used marketbucks and a model of the 15-minute city to increase access to farmers’ markets. Listeners can learn more about Jennifer’s markets by visiting https://www.scarboroughfarmersmarket.ca/ and https://www.courtyardfarmersmkt.ca/. This Feeding City conversation was recorded on August 18, 2023 and lightly edited for clarity and length. 
[Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com.] 

Friday Nov 24, 2023

Feeding City Lab’s Jaclyn Rohel hosts Thiago Gomide Nasser in a conversation on pop-up market infrastructure and community-building amongst food makers, vendors, and eaters. Thiago shares the story of how he came to co-found Junta Local, a Rio de Janeiro-based collective that promotes and distributes good, local, and fair food. As a researcher and an activist, Thiago explains how he bridged his academic interests in political science with grassroots advocacy to support small producers and help facilitate short food supply chains in Brazil. Junta Local first originated as a small market of only 14 vendors set up on beer crates and wooden planks, yet over the past decade it has grown into a resilient network of food producers and markets. Listeners will get a view into Junta Local’s unique participatory structure through its modelo ajuntativo, gain insight into how Junta Local helped support the human links within Rio de Janeiro’s food systems during the Covid-19 pandemic, and learn about how digital platforms can complement on-the-ground marketsplaces. This interview was recorded live at the University of Toronto on June 12, 2023.  
[Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com.] 

Thursday Nov 09, 2023

In this episode from Voices from the Food Frontlines, the Feeding City Lab takes listeners on a tour of food and urban growing programs offered by the Toronto-based Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS). In conversation with Serena Yuan, Brian Joyce, Director of Community Services, Facilities and Operations at CICS, discusses the organization’s experience during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brian explains how its programs and facilities evolved in response so that it could continue assisting newcomers and refugees. Through food banks, cooking workshops, a new greenhouse, a community collective of raised garden beds, a seed library, and a meal delivery service in partnership with a local cafe, CICS has helped facilitate community food initiatives in the service of well-being, social health, and connection. CICS’ kitchen and garden-based programs continue to grow. It is on track to grow more than 2500lbs of food this year alone, with a range of organic produce and culturally specific vegetables – from gai lan to bitter melon and fig trees – going towards their other programs, including their food bank. The episode concludes with a peek into the organization’s plans for the future and its continued efforts to work towards developing a sustainable model that could be shared with and adapted by other communities. This episode was recorded on June 16, 2023.
[Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com.] 

Tuesday Nov 07, 2023

Feeding City’s Jasleen Sohal talks with Ilham Saydna, Program Development Coordinator at Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank. Ilham shares her journey in food security work, drawing from nearly a decade of experience at Daily Bread and her longtime involvement with the Scarborough Food Network. She explains how a large organization such as Daily Bread supports people in need, shedding light on its community-based partnership model and work with local agencies (such as CICS) and its research and advocacy efforts to end hunger. Despite a broad and resilient food distribution network, need has continued to rise over the past few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, and rising costs of living. In the early months of the pandemic, Daily Bread sought to bring emergency food provisions closer to the homes of vulnerable people to improve access. From March-May 2020, it set up food distribution sites at several branches of the Toronto Public Library, which pivoted to serving as food bank facilities during the pandemic emergency. In the following weeks -- in June and July of 2020 -- Daily Bread launched an astounding 19 new programs to meet soaring demand and fill gaps in communities that were hit especially hard, such as Scarborough. New food banks continue to open every month. Ilham emphasizes that change is possible, and she notes how the public can get involved in supporting efforts to end food insecurity. This interview with Feeding City was recorded on July 11, 2023.
[Additional sound effects from https://www.zapsplat.com.] 

Wednesday Jun 21, 2023

What role does charitable food aid play in alleviating food insecurity? In this episode, Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the U.K.-based Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), discusses the structural challenges to food access during the Covid-19 pandemic and her work towards a future where there is no need for charitable food aid. IFAN’s membership includes over 550 independent, grassroots food aid providers from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Describing IFAN’s research, advocacy, and network-building efforts, Sabine shares the successes of the Cash First project, which collaborates with members and local authorities to address widespread food insecurity by providing people with straightforward access to financial resources. The conversation illuminates the impact of poverty as a main driver of food insecurity and describes how community-based charitable supports can promote dignified access to food during a growing cost of living crisis. This interview with the Feeding City Lab was recorded on March 21, 2023. 

Tuesday Jun 20, 2023

A pantry differs from both a food bank and a grocery store, yet each can be connected within a local food network. In this episode, Elena Vacca shares her experience working with Your Local Pantry in Manchester, U.K. during the Covid-19 pandemic. Elena offers insights into YLP’s resilience and adaptability, explaining the unique benefits of the members-based, volunteer-led pantry model. She describes how skyrocketing demand and social distancing requirements impacted the pantries in 2020, from sourcing food to the complex logistical planning that moved 150 parcels through delivery routes each day. She also addresses the recent challenges posed by the cost-of-living crisis and reflects on the potential to collaborate with government to improve food security. Drawing on her grassroots experience on the frontlines at the pantry and on her advocacy work to promote community-based access to healthy food, Elena shares ideas for what’s needed to transition to a more just and sustainable food system. This interview with the Feeding City Lab was recorded on March 22, 2023.  

Monday Jun 19, 2023

What is a community market garden, and what role could it play in a city’s food system? In this episode, Sam Payne describes how he helped launch MUD – short for Manchester Urban Diggers – as a non-profit social enterprise in the months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. By sowing seeds and bringing people together around an overgrown, disused one-acre space, MUD snowballed into a community-wide undertaking to support food sovereignty in greater Manchester, U.K. Hundreds of people move through the MUD plot each week, volunteering in the gardens and participating in cooking workshops, gardening clubs, pottery classes, and more. This is a story of uniting a community over food through collective acts of educating, inspiring, creating, and feeding during the Covid-19 pandemic. Join the conversation as Sam paints a picture of a community-based alternative to the corporate supermarket. This episode with Feeding City Lab was recorded on March 22, 2023. 


A podcast series created by the Feeding City Lab at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

To learn more about the series and its creators, visit us at:


Voices from the Food Frontlines, Pandemic & Beyond  |  Episodes 1-12

Voices from the Food Frontlines, Sustainable FoodwaysEpisodes 13-onwards


Sound Credits

Changing Seasons by Ketsa, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective (https://imlcollective.uk/). Wounds by Ketsa, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective (https://imlcollective.uk/).  

Sound effects for episodes 1-8 created by Feeding City Lab.  Sound effects for latter episodes (i.e. episode 9 and up) sourced from Zapslat (https://www.zapsplat.com)  


Copyright 2023-2024. All rights reserved.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Version: 20240320