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Amberley Ruetz

Arrell Scholar Alumna, Geography

Amberley Ruetz is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. As a school food and policy researcher, Amberley examines the social and economic return on investing in school food programs.

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“Farm-to-school is a long-established phenomenon in the United States. The health impacts have been well-researched and the economic benefits, such as the creation of new jobs have been documented. I am researching the economic impact of these programs throughout Ontario and assessing how farm-to-school programs might evolve to expand the scope and sustainability of local food systems in Ontario.”

With many Canadian children consuming poor diets made up of high fat and high sugar foods, while eating fewer fruits and vegetables, today’s youth may be the first generation to be sick more often than their parents. Building healthy habits from a young age may be the solution to this problem and with children spending a vast amount of their time in school for over a decade of their lives, a National School Food Program may be the health-promotion tool needed to reverse this crisis that spans socioeconomic divides.  

Amberley’s research directly explored the social and economic return on investment of provincial and national school food programs, in particular the farmtoschool model. As one of the first academics to conduct a comprehensive scan of school food programs in Canada, she hopes her research will inform federal and provincial policy and program decisions related to school food.   

Research Interests and Future Goals

Amberley has a BA with a specialization in Political Science and Peace Studies from King’s University College, an M.A. in Globalization and the Human Condition from McMaster University. She has now completed her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Guelph with Dr. John Smithers.

Informed by her experience as a practitioner in the Ontario Student Nutrition Program, her Ph.D. research on a provincial level specifically investigated the extent to which a farm-to-school approach to food procurement for school food programs can expand the scope and sustainability of the local agri-food sector. Nationally, Amberley’s examination of school food models is aimed at helping inform the development of a National School Food Program that can move the dial on health and well-being in Canada while supporting the Canadian economy. 

Why the Arrell Food Institute

Amberley applied for the Arrell Scholarship because of the opportunities to work with an interdisciplinary team of graduate students while challenging herself both academically and professionally. Under the leadership of world-renowned food scholar Dr. Evan Fraser, she knew that Arrell Food Institute would support her research by connecting her with industry partners in addition to the many researchers and staff on campus. The proximity of Arrell Food Institute, the John F. Wood Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Accelerator Program, the Guelph Food Innovation Centre and OMAFRA across the street from the university made sure that as a graduate student she had access to a variety of world class resources across the agriculture and food sector. 

Amberley is a key contributor to the School Food Spotlight report produced with Arrell Food Institute and was featured on the RBC Disruptors podcast with John Stackhouse where she discussed how digital disruption is changing the skills we’ll need for the future of work.