A groundbreaking nutrition scientist and a Lebanese Indigenous food security foundation will receive the Arrell Global Food Innovation Awards for 2021.

The University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute (AFI) award program, begun in 2018 and judged by an international committee, recognizes those who make exceptional efforts to create more equitable, suitable, efficient and nutritious food systems.

Two prizes of $100,000 are awarded annually in two categories: research innovation and community engagement innovation. Nominees are from around the world.

Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, who is the global lead for nutrition and public health at WorldFish, has received the award for research innovation. WorldFish is an international aquatic foods science and innovation entity of CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research network.

Food Heritage Foundation, an organization that uses Indigenous culinary traditions to increase food security, food skills and economic development in Lebanon, has received the award for community engagement innovation.

“It is my pleasure to congratulate the Food Heritage Foundation and Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, who each demonstrate the importance of honouring culture, history and tradition in creating solutions for challenges faced by the global food system,” said U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates.

“In supporting the awards, the Arrell Family Foundation is inspiring scientists and activists – both here at the University and around the world – to be leaders in food security, safety and sustainability.”

Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted

Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted stands on the beach near an Asian fishing port
Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted

Thilsted studies the nutritional potential of small fish species consumed in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Among her international food and nutrition security leadership roles, she is vice-chair of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021’s Action Track on Advancing Equitable Livelihoods. The summit takes place Sept. 23.

“I am honoured to receive the 2021 Arrell Food Innovation Award. This is an important recognition of the essential but often overlooked role of fish and aquatic food systems in agricultural research for development,” said Thilsted.

“As a researcher, I have developed and implemented local, culturally appropriate, food-based solutions that improve nutrition and health for millions of malnourished children and their mothers in countries across Asia and Africa, where fish and other aquatic foods are integral to diets and culture. This award acknowledges the unmatched potential of diverse aquatic foods in food system research, policies and interventions, at national, regional and global levels.”

Food Heritage Foundation

Food Heritage Foundation workers

Food Heritage Foundation emphasizes local specialties in food preparation, linking rural and urban communities and creating markets for local farmers. Its programs have strengthened communities through regional issues such as connecting Syrian refugees and their host communities in Lebanon.

“We are really honoured that our work is being recognized on an international level,” said founding member Mabelle Chedid. “It really means a lot to us during the times our country is going through.”

Distributed annually since 2018, the Arrell Global Food Innovation Awards recognize unique approaches and impacts of work by individuals and organizations around the globe.

“Holistic, locally sourced innovation is at the heart of both the 2021 winners’ work and part of what has made their innovative approaches so successful,” said Dr. Evan Fraser, AFI director. “We are delighted to award these prizes to such important international actors, bringing a food-secure future for all closer to reality.”


Maggie McCormick
Arrell Food Institute