Food Research

How do non-climatic factors reinforce maladaptation trajectories? Check out this new publication to find out.


Congratulations to Dr. Carol Zaveleta for her recent publication in PLoS One.  Her participatory, community-based study was conducted in collaboration with Shawi communities. Together, they worked to characterize the food system of the Shawi in the Peruvian Amazon, climatic and non-climatic drivers of their food security vulnerability to climate change, and identify potential maladaptation trajectories. They found that transformational food security adaptation should include consideration of Indigenous perceptions and priorities, and should be part of Peruvian food and socioeconomic development policies.  Click here for free article (open access).


Zavaleta, C., Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, J., Llanos-Cuentas, A., Carcamo, C., Ross, N., Lancha, G., Sherman, M., Harper, S.L., IHACC Research Team. (2018) Multiple non-climatic drivers of food insecurity reinforce climate change maladaptation trajectories among Peruvian Indigenous Shawi in the Amazon. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0205714. Click here for free article (open access).


Background: Climate change is affecting food systems globally, with implications for food security, nutrition, and the health of human populations. There are limited data characterizing the current and future consequences of climate change on local food security for populations already experiencing poor nutritional indicators. Indigenous Amazonian populations have a high reported prevalence of nutritional deficiencies. This paper characterizes the food system of the Shawi of the Peruvian Amazon, climatic and non-climatic drivers of their food security vulnerability to climate change, and identifies potential maladaptation trajectories.

Methods and findings: Semi-structured interviews with key informants (n = 24), three photovoice workshops (n = 17 individuals), transect walks (n = 2), a food calendar exercise, and two community dissemination meetings (n = 30 individuals), were conducted within two Shawi communities in Balsapuerto District in the Peruvian Loreto region between June and September of 2014. The Shawi food system was based on three main food sub-systems (forest, farming and externally-sourced). Shawi reported collective, gendered, and emotional notions related to their food system activities. Climatic and non-climatic drivers of food security vulnerability among Shawi participants acted at proximal and distal levels, and mutually reinforced key maladaptation trajectories, including: 1) a growing population and natural resource degradation coupled with limited opportunities to increase incomes, and 2) a desire for education and deforestation reinforced by governmental social and food interventions.

Conclusion: A series of maladaptive trajectories have the potential to increase social and nutritional inequities for the Shawi. Transformational food security adaptation should include consideration of Indigenous perceptions and priorities, and should be part of Peruvian food and socioeconomic development policies.

New Publication! Examining adaptation projects targeting food systems funded by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Congratulations to Aleksandra, member of James Ford's Climate Change Adaptation Research Group, for her new publication in Climate Policy. In her article, Aleksandra documents and examines adaptation projects targeting food systems financed through funding bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Based on her results, Aleksandra recommends that projects should assess the entire food system to ensure future food security.


Conevska, A., Ford, J., Lesnikowski, A. and Harper, S.L., 2018. Adaptation financing for projects focused on food systems through the UNFCCC. Climate Policy 


Investments in adaptation are required to reduce vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of food systems to the impacts of climate change. For low-income nations, international financing plays a central role in supporting adaptation. In this article, we document and examine adaptation projects targeting food systems financed through funding bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We find that between 2004 and 2015, 3% (n = 96) of adaptation projects supported through the UNFCCC explicitly focused on the production, processing, distribution, preparation and/or consumption of food, with US$546 m mobilized through funding bodies directly and US$1.44bn through co-financing. Agriculture is the most common sector supported, with extreme weather events the primary climate change-related impact motivating nations to apply for adaptation financing. The majority of actions are documented to adapt the food production component of food systems, with limited focus within projects on the full range of food system vulnerability and the implications on food security.

Key policy insights:

  • Enhanced international adaptation financing targeting food systems is needed, and in particular financing to address limited adaptation readiness

  • Supported food system projects should include holistic assessments of the entire food system in order to prioritize sector and food system component issue areas for short- and long-term efficiency

  • To better analyse food system linkages and aid in the prioritization of adaptation activities, adaptation-directed funds should consider placing a higher emphasis on a cross-sectoral approach within projects

  • Linkages between official development assistance and adaptation-directed funds could help optimize financing for food systems and mainstream food system adaptation efforts

Crystal Gong awarded Guelph Y 2018 Women of Distinction

Congratulations to Undergraduate Thesis Student Crystal Gong, who is one of the honorees being recognized by the Guelph Y 2018 Guelph Women of Distinction. Crystal is working on our research team on two research projects: (1) synthesizing the state of knowledge on food security in the context of climate change, and (2) examining how season is associated with food security.

Read more about Crystal's award:

Food insecurity by season in households with children in Iqaluit

Congratulations to Catherine Huet for her new publication in BMC Public Health!  Her article examines food security in household with children in Iqaluit.  Click here for free access to the open-access article!  


Huet, C., Ford, J., Berrang-Ford, L., Edge, V.L., Shirley, J., IHACC Research Team, King, N., Harper, S.L. (2017). Food insecurity and food consumption by season in households with children in an Arctic city: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 17:578


Background: High rates of food insecurity are documented among Inuit households in Canada; however, data on food insecurity prevalence and seasonality for Inuit households with children are lacking, especially in city centres. This project: (1) compared food consumption patterns for households with and without children, (2) compared the prevalence of food insecurity for households with and without children, (3) compared food consumption patterns and food insecurity prevalence between seasons, and (4) identified factors associated with food insecurity in households with children in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.

Methods: Randomly selected households were surveyed in Iqaluit in September 2012 and May 2013. Household food security status was determined using an adapted United States Department of Agriculture Household Food Security Survey Module. Univariable logistic regressions were used to examine unconditional associations between food security status and demographics, socioeconomics, frequency of food consumption, and method of food preparation in households with children by season.

Results: Households with children (n = 431) and without children (n = 468) participated in the survey. Food insecurity was identified in 32.9% (95% CI: 28.5–37.4%) of households with children; this was significantly higher than in households without children (23.2%, 95% CI: 19.4–27.1%). The prevalence of household food insecurity did not significantly differ by season. Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the person responsible for food preparation, including low formal education attainment (ORSept = 4.3, 95% CI: 2.3–8.0; ORMay = 3.2, 95% CI: 1.8–5.8), unemployment (ORSept = 1.1, 95% CI: 1.1–1.3; ORMay = 1.3, 95% CI: 1.1–1.5), and Inuit identity (ORSept = 8.9, 95% CI: 3.4–23.5; ORMay = 21.8, 95% CI: 6.6–72.4), were associated with increased odds of food insecurity in households with children. Fruit and vegetable consumption (ORSept = 0.4, 95% CI: 0.2–0.8; ORMay = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.2–0.9), as well as eating cooked (ORSept = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3–1.0; ORMay = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3–0.9) and raw (ORSept = 1.7, 95% CI: 0.9–3.0; ORMay = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.0–3.1) fish were associated with decreased odds of food insecurity among households with children, while eating frozen meat and/or fish (ORSept = 2.6, 95% CI: 1.4–5.0; ORMay = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.1–3.7) was associated with increased odds of food insecurity.

Conclusions:  Food insecurity is high among households with children in Iqaluit. Despite the partial subsistence livelihoods of many Inuit in the city, we found no seasonal differences in food security and food consumption for households with children. Interventions aiming to decrease food insecurity in these households should consider food consumption habits, and the reported demographic and socioeconomic determinants of food insecurity.

Got Clams? Anna on CBC!

In case you missed it, here is a story from 2016 about the People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance (PAWS) Project.  In this article, MSc Candidate, Anna Manore, describes her data collection in Iqaluit, Nunavut.  With over 150 shares on social media, don't miss reading this article!