The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities and inequities of food systems. These vulnerabilities are not limited to pandemic-related crises, and when considering such issues through a climate justice lens, it is apparent that communities and societies also will experience the increasingly severe effects of climate change unevenly. Partnering with the community of Revelstoke, British Columbia, the Reimagining Food Systems for a Sustainable and Equitable Future project uses an equity lens to develop and apply interactive visualizations as planning tools for supporting progress toward sustainable, equitable local food futures. The project employs a novel interdisciplinary approach, combining concepts/methods from food justice, planning, and visualizations studies, and it responds to two research challenges revealed by COVID-19:
- First, the pandemic has highlighted how food systems impacts affect different groups unequally; accordingly, this research will develop and use an equity framework for guiding food systems planning processes, outcomes, and tool development.
- Second, the project experiments with interactive visualizations that support digital and remote engagement, thereby offering new opportunities for planning research and practice during times when circumstances call for online engagement (e.g., physically-distancing during the pandemic).
This research is part of a larger project that also works with the communities of Prince Rupert and Prince George in their efforts to develop local food systems in ways that support social justice objectives.
Source: Revelstoke British Columbia from Mount Revelstoke. Darren Kirby (2008), Wikimedia Commons
The research consists of three phases:
- Phase 1 involves developing and applying a food systems equity framework to a scenario planning exercise. This work builds upon the work of Vanessa Andreotti, who developed the HEADS UP framework for critically examining issues and inquiry processes using a social justice lens.
- Phase 2 centres on building a visualization tool for exploring food systems scenarios. Using methods developed by Newell and colleagues, the visualization tool development involves creating a realistic, immersive virtual environments that depicts food systems strategies in local neighbourhoods, allowing users to virtually ‘walk through’ these places and toggle different scenarios.
- Phase 3 consists of a final workshop with local government, community groups, and community members to explore the food systems scenarios and assess the visualization, as a tool for supporting local food systems planning and progress toward food justice.
We are grateful to Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for providing funding provided to support this project through their New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) - 2021 Innovative Approaches to Research in the Pandemic Context initiative.