The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely disruptive to food systems in Canada and beyond—from supply chain interruptions to food insecurity as a result of sudden unemployment (Akram-Lodhi 2020; Campbell 2021; Kinsey et al. 2020; Parks et al. 2020). Various actors, such as farmers and restauranteurs, have struggled to respond to changing circumstances in terms of sanitary regulations and fluctuating labour demands, while many corporate food retailers and distribution companies have profited enormously since the coronavirus initially triggered lockdowns in North America in March of 2020. With ongoing food system challenges taking place in parallel with vaccination developments and societal efforts to cope with the continuing pandemic, many scholars are questioning how the impacts of COVID-19 will inform food system resiliency in the long term (Altieri and Nicholls 2020; Clapp et al. 2022; Hendrickson 2020).
This research project is geared toward analyzing pandemic-related food-system disruptions, and responses to those disruptions, in the context of Quebec. The objective is to understand how farmer-led and community-based initiatives can inform approaches and policies that can contribute to a more ecological and socially just food system in the province; that is, a food system resilient to widespread shocks.
The core questions guiding this research are:
1. What have been the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec for (a) small-scale, ecological farmers in terms of their food production (including labour practices), marketing, and distribution; and (b) individuals, households, and communities facing food insecurity.
2. To what extent are these actors formally and informally engaging in cooperative and justice-oriented approaches to produce and distribute food in ways that support farmers’ livelihoods and/or that make ecologically grown food more accessible to lower-income/food-insecure residents of Quebec.
3. What are the key public-policy measures and practical initiatives that these actors believe are necessary to enable an expansion of cooperative initiatives, localized food economies, and a more resilient food system in Quebec.