On Tuesday, May 22, more than 450 leaders from academia, the food industry, government, NGOs and philanthropy will convene at the University of Guelph for the inaugural Arrell Food Summit. “Our ambition is no less to be the Davos of food—a meeting of the minds at the highest level to tackle the challenges of global food scarcity,” says Dr. Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute.
For Fraser and his team of organizers, the goal of the three-day event (concluding in downtown Toronto on May 24) is to highlight a range of ideologies, strategies and voices. “The critical thing is to acknowledge there are no simple solutions to sustainably feeding the world’s population,” says Fraser. Instead, the summit will be a venue for global expertise. Among the list of speakers and panelists are Sir Charles Godfray, one of the world’s top academics and Director of the Oxford Martin School, which includes a Programme on the Future of Food; Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the prominent advocate for the health, the environment and food security for the Indigenous communities of the north; Sam Thevasagayam, Deputy Director of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Galen Weston, CEO, chairman and president of Loblaw Companies, the nation’s largest retailer.
Behind the scenes, the summit will create spaces to deliver deliberate outcomes—such as meetings between the City of Guelph and the British-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation to strategize on the use of local resources for food production and bringing together scientists, regulators and business leaders to confront pressing concerns like food traceability and food fraud. Students working with the Arrell Food Institute will map out a series of solutions for global food security for 2050 and beyond, as well as modelling the future of work in agriculture and food production.
“I’m a big believer in Margaret Mead’s words: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,’” says Fraser. “My reinterpretation of that quote is that foremost among the properties we need to succeed are passionate ideas and groups of people willing to debate them.”