Most of us view food in terms of what we’re having for dinner; students of food security consider the subject from a wide variety of angles.
The term “food security” may sound like a newfangled concept, but according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Association, it refers to an issue affecting nearly two billion people worldwide.
“Food security is concerned not only with the way food is produced, but also with the way people access food,” says Cecilia Rocha, an instructor in the Certificate in Food Security program at Ryerson’s G. Raymond Chang School.
“We’re concerned about questions that pertain to the environment, the way we transport food. We’re concerned about food safety, we’re concerned about health, for example the obesity crisis. So it’s quite a comprehensive view of the food system.”
Rocha, a former economics professor, was asked in 2001 along with a number of colleagues to develop the program.
“It was a mutlidisciplinary group,” she says. “We had somebody from sociology, somebody from agriculture, somebody with a background in nutrition, somebody in food safety.”
Rocha defines food security as “a condition in which all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life.”
To complete the certificate students take six courses, some of which are offered online — meaning students may hail anywhere from British Columbia to Guyana. “Because it was distance ed I met a lot of people from different countries,” says Jasmine Kwong, a graduate of the program who now works at Ryerson as a research assistant.
“We had somebody studying from Indonesia, somebody studying from Ghana... it was really interesting to know that you’re studying the same course as somebody on the other side of the globe.”
In terms of where the certificate may lead, Rocha says many students are employed as public health workers, environmental scientists and social workers with non-governmental organizations and community groups.
“We have two groups of people that take our courses,” she says.
“People that are already in the workforce, and people that have been taking undergraduate courses and want to work in areas that pertain to food.”