Laurier Professor Alison Blay-Palmer named finalist for Canadian research impact award for second time

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Alison Blay-Palmer, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Laurier and food sustainability researcher, has been named a finalist for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Impact Award for the second time.

Blay-Palmer is nominated in the Partnership Category alongside the Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) partnership, a project she founded in conjunction with Wilfrid Laurier University. Blay-Palmer and FLEdGE are among the three finalists in their category.

The SSHRC Impact award recognizes excellence in Canadian leaders, thinkers and researchers who specialize in the social sciences and humanities fields. The Partnership category specifically honours SSHRC funded formal partnerships which are especially impactful to the world.

The FLEdGE partnership was founded in 2015 and received a grant of $2.5 million from the SSHRC. FLEdGE focuses on facilitating research and knowledge sharing surrounding the creation of sustainable food systems.

“The work essentially is about creating more sustainable food systems and sustainable food systems are healthy, they’re green and they’re engaging,” said Blay-Palmer.

Blay-Palmer’s inspiration for her work was a drive to make the world a better place and address pressing environment issues such as climate change.

“More recently, addressing climate change and climate emergency is the focus of our work,” said said. “If the food is being grown in a sustainable way it can also help to sequester or sink carbon, it can help depending on the transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If we manage our food waste differently that can also help to offset greenhouse gas emissions.”

There’s lots of ways that we can use our food system very practically to help make the world better and people can understand that. It’s a really accessible way to bring about change and [build] community.

— Alison Blay-Palmer, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies

According to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report, the industrial food system accounts for up to 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

“If we can address climate change head on through the food system and because it’s so accessible and something that we can all participate in it’s a great way to deal with climate change and to bring about solutions to the climate emergency,” said Blay-Palmer.

The overall accessibility of food to the general population makes FLEdGE something that people can relate to, understand and implement without any technical background knowledge.

“Everybody eats so everybody understands food. It’s a way that you can reach people,” said Blay-Palmer.

“There’s lots of ways that we can use our food system very practically to help make the world better and people can understand that. It’s a really accessible way to bring about change and [build] community.”

Blay-Palmer credits the research community as well as the department of geography and environmental studies at Laurier, her home department, as a major contributor to her projects success.

“Laurier is a wonderfully supportive university,” she said. “We have 89 institutional partners and more than 130 individuals who we work with so it’s a really extensive network across Canada and also internationally.”

“We can all do something that helps us move the ball forward and that’s really what people are looking for now, is ways that we can help and food gives us that opportunity.”

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