Thriving Beyond 2020 is the theme of this year’s virtual Arrell Food Summit hosted by the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute (AFI) from Nov. 18 to 20.

Agnes Kalibata, special envoy for the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, and Ertharin Cousin, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), will headline this year’s event with a keynote discussion on the politics of food.

This year’s theme focuses on building resilience and thriving during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event attracts agri-food experts from across Canada, including food producers and processors, government and corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and academics.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, will join AFI scholars Katherine Eckert and Maleeka Singh to discuss lessons learned during the pandemic and national strategies to address food insecurity and food waste.

Agnes Kalibata

“Our goal is to explore how the food system can grow stronger and this means bringing all the different perspectives to bear. We are delighted to welcome some of the top names in the world, from chefs to community activists and high-level policy-makers, to the University of Guelph,” said AFI director Prof. Evan Fraser, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics.

Kalibata is a Rwandan agricultural scientist and policy-maker. She was previously president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and Rwanda’s minister of agriculture and animal resources. As UN special envoy, she will help develop action plans to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Cousin, an America lawyer, served during the Obama administration as United States ambassador to the United Nation Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, and was executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Feeding America.

Ertharin Cousin

Other sessions include:

• Tareq Hadhad, founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate and a former Syrian refugee, will discuss his life story and experience as a business owner during the pandemic.

• Farmers and food leaders in a panel on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) in food production will discuss how COVID-19 may have exacerbated diversity and inclusion issues in the sector.

• Chef Trevor Bird, two-time Top Chef Canada finalist, will give a cooking demonstration.

• Deb Stark, former deputy minister in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, will release draft recommendations from the Growing Stronger project, a collaboration between the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute and the AFI.

• A Green Recovery panel featuring U of G alumna Shahira Esmail, director of global consulting at Radicle, will discuss how Canada can lead in climate change mitigation.

• Crystal Mackay, a U of G alumna and founder and CEO of Loft32, and Edelman Canada’s Sophie Nadeau will discuss the power of storytelling for change.


Maggie McCormick