Back to School: Food Security Certificate at Ryerson University

I started High School 25 years ago this month.  This also means that I met Dana 25 years ago (although we started dating decades later).  It is really neat, therefore, to be starting University with her this week.

Back to School: Food Security Certificate at Ryerson University

I also have zero doubt that our work on the blog and the inspiring communities within it are directly responsible for our return to academics.

What is food security?  I’ve learned the definition from the United Nations this week:

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

I’m not entirely certain how I’ve ended up back in school.  The topic is one that inspires and we’ve met people who have graduated or are taking the course and they’ve inspired me.  I certainly am passionate about our food system and needing to create change in the way it works (or doesn’t).

When we started writing WellPreserved (December 28, 2008), food security, politics, policies and ethics were pretty foreign to me (in many ways they still are).  My exposure to the health of our food system (globally as well as locally) was sporadic; it ranged from complete naivety to complete overconfidence.  I had been raised a hunter, spent nearly 6 years as a near vegetarian (consuming no game, pork or conventional red meat at all), been involved in early debates about growth hormone as it related to cattle and new nothing of the state of our oceans, ignored the difficult processes of some mass agriculture and hadn’t encountered the term ‘GMO.’  I simply loved to eat and needed a hobby.

I’m not overly knowledgeable today.  I know more than I did but enough to know that I know very little.  I know that I have a lot to learn and I’m excited for the opportunity to do so.

Our course is an online course with a lot of interaction with other students from around the world.  I’m beyond excited and, yes, a little intimidated.

I won’t be sharing the details of our class-to-class experience (for many reasons, including that of intellectual property of the school) but I will share many of the learning I encounter in the journey.

In our first week we’ve been introduced to an amazing online resource named ELDIS.  ELDIS is a UK-based project which publishes academic papers related to food security from around the world (for free).  Dana and I have been pouring through their section on Food Security where they’ve broken it down into several sections:

  • Food Security
  • Food Aid
  • Food Policy
  • Food Security and Gender
  • Food statistics, situation reports and crop forecasts
  • Households, livelihoods and assets
  • IPRs and Food Security
  • Right to food
  • Social Protection and Safety Nets
  • Urban Issues

ELDIS is a stunning resource and I’ve found myself thrown into a range of emotion based on the reading as I’ve found topics that inspire and make me hopeful all the way through to articles filled with incredible sadness.  It certainly has been an eye opener and I’m excited to be back in a formal education setting (ironic as I ran screaming from it last time!).

I won’t be posting weekly on our learning but when something arises, I’ll be sharing it as part of our BACK TO SCHOOL series!

What resources do you turn to to learn about food?  Has anyone else here studied food security?  Is anyone else thinking about it?

For info on the course, click here.  We are taking the first module (class 403).  The 3 books above are optional reading for the course.



  1. That’s awesome! I’ve been thinking about that course since you first mentioned it and will likely do that in the coming year as well. My true introduction to food safety/security was with my holistic nutrition program at CSNN a few years ago. Since graduating and now starting my practice I’m continuously getting exposed to how critical and scary our current food system is, and how detrimental it is to our health. More needs to be done to educate people on what’s really in our food, especially the processed stuff that merely resembles food! Looking forward to hearing about your experience with the program over a drink one day soon. Good luck with the back to school thing!

    • Thanks Melody – we’re pretty excited too!

      Like you, our exposure has come more recently – hopefully that’s good news as more and more of the message is getting through! The program (so far) is far more global than my little head expected and my eyes are even wider after week 1! It does amaze me how much of the urban farming techniques used in the developing world can translate directly into urban gardening here and I suspect our garden will be very different come next year!

      Thanks for the encouragement!


  2. I agree, the Food Security program through Ryerson is great in a number of ways. One of my favorites being the diversity of people you get to communicate with on a weekly basis! I am slowly chipping away at the Certificate and took my first class a few years ago. That first class had people from most areas of Canada, a couple in Europe, and one working for a development agency in Africa. We were also from a wide variety of backgrounds and offered a wealth of knowledge simply through the diversity of experiences.

    Hope you enjoy the courses and I just might “see” you guys in one of the future courses.

  3. What a great adventure (and excuse to read amazing books)! Thanks for sharing the information about Eldis – I didn’t know that existed but I just bookmarked it!

  4. I too am loving the Ryerson Food Security courses and am enrolled in my sixth credit. The variety of people and experiences make the discussions very rich and exciting. I recommend the Urban Ag credits too even if you are not a locavore!

    • Laurie,

      Great to hear it’s just as exciting 6 courses in! I’m really excited about the Urban Ag credits though trying to keep an open mind to see what I learn on my way there! Really awesome to hear that they are great. So far I’m not entirely surprised to find out just how little I know; and I love that! Joel

  5. Hi Joel:
    So glad you are talking your first course! I just started my second (Food Policy Course).

    I was wondering if you could let everyone know about the Foodshare event coming up on Saturday, September 22 from 11a.m. – 3p.m.

    Fresh Fest is being held at the Ontario Food Terminal with proceeds going to FoodShare

    More details are at:

  6. You may find Sharon Astyk’s works of interest.
    This post speaks of Canada -
    Her other blog –
    A review of one of her books (I have a mead recipe in it.:) –

    Here is a taste of what is going on in my region –

    Thanks for all of the great projects & posts you two do!
    I hope you enjoy the links.

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