School of Cities / Event

Knowledge Café: Voices from the food frontlines

KC - Jo Sharma & Jaclyn Rohel

Voices from the Food Frontlines: Connecting, listening, and supporting community engaged research

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, local food producers, grassroots networks, independent food businesses and social enterprises, and other food frontline actors fed cities and communities in the face of increased food insecurity, supply chain blockages, and widening social inequities – they continue to do so against post-pandemic and systemic challenges.

Based on research from the Feeding City lab’s networks on such food frontline actions and networks, Jo and Jackie are producing, with SSHRC support, this Voices from the Food Frontlines knowledge dissemination project that brings to audiences worldwide the testimonies of people active on the pandemic food frontlines, describing their experiences, and how their actions help support sustainable food futures. It features the voices of community partners of the Feeding City Lab who sustain local food systems in cities across three continents: Toronto, Scarborough, New York, Manchester, Rio de Janiero, in the form of publicly available podcasts produced by a student-faculty team at the University of Toronto.

At this session of the Knowledge Café, we will discuss how and why this project came about, why we should listen to these voices, and how this can be a template for university-community-informed and community-engaged actionist research on cities and beyond.

To learn more about the Voices from the Food Frontlines project, please visit:

About the speakers

Jaclyn Rohel is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she works with the Sustainable Food and Farming Futures Cluster of Scholarly Prominence and the Feeding City Lab. Jaclyn brings an applied interdisciplinary approach to her work on urban food provisioning. She has contributed to Feeding City since 2020, jointly leading research, knowledge mobilization, and pedagogical activities in areas such as community food supports, emergency foodways, markets, and multimedia. She is also a member of the Editorial Collective for Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies. Jaclyn has a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, and recently held fellowships in community-engaged humanities research and new media at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto.

Jo Sharma is an Associate Professor of the Culinaria Research Centre, a Graduate Faculty Member of the Departments of History and the Study of Religion, and a Faculty Affiliate of the School of Cities, the School of the Environment, and the SDG Academy. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Life Member of the Association of Indian Labour Historians. In her capacity as an applied scholar of food, environment and justice, Jo directs the Feeding City lab of the University of Toronto and co-directs the Sustainable Food and Farming Futures Cluster of Scholarly Prominence at UTSC. As a publicly engaged scholar of the environmental humanities, she is deeply committed to community-engaged collaborations toward north-south knowledge sharing and dissemination and connecting those to sustainable development goals. In her capacity as a global historian of food, cities, and labour, her research explores street foods, sound politics, and public policy on food provisioning