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Amberley Ruetz

Arrell Scholar Alumna, Geography

Dr. Amberley T. Ruetz is an Arrell Scholar alumna and a school food and food policy expert, working and researching in this field since 2015. As a former practitioner in the Ontario Student Nutrition Program, Amberley is passionate about both evidence and practice-informed solutions. In 2019, Amberley was invited by the Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to the Government of Canada’s first roundtable consultation on developing a National School Food Program.

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“Canada is the only G7 country without a National School Food Program, and ranks 37th out of 41 countries for providing access to healthy food for children; that is below the United States and just above Bulgaria. We can and we must do better. Children are only 20% of our population but 100% of our future.”

Amberley continues to consult the government on school food in Canada as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Saskatchewan. In this position she is coordinating the largest analysis of school food program implementation models in Canada under the supervision of Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. This study will yield insights from every province and territory to inform the creation of a world-class, locally-adapted National School Food Program. Read more here: https://spheru.ca/research-projects/projects/individual-project/school-food-program.php

Amberley is also the Canadian delegate to the Global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition, the research arm of the Global School Meal Coalition led by Dr. Donald Bundy, and Co-Chairs the Canadian Association for Food Studies’ School Food Working Group.

As a community-engaged researcher, she regularly advises a number of non-governmental organizations advancing school food in Canada.  Amberley has been supporting the work of the Canadian Coalition for Healthy School Food since 2018. In 2021, she contributed to the development of the Canadian Farm-to-School Evaluation Framework and was appointed to Farm to Cafeteria Canada’s Advisory Council. Amberley hopes that her work will inform federal and provincial policies and program decisions related to school food programming.    

Research Interests and Future Goals

Amberley has a B.A. in Political Science and Social Justice and Peace Studies from King’s University College and an interdisciplinary M.A. in Globalization and the Human Condition from McMaster University.  In 2021, Amberley completed her Ph.D. in Geography as an Arrell Food Scholar (2017-2021) at the University of Guelph under the supervision of Drs. John Smithers and Evan Fraser.

Provincially, Amberley’s OMAFRA-funded research examined how a ‘farm-to-school’ approach to school food procurement in Ontario could expand the scope and sustainability of the province’s food system while creating new market opportunities within the agri-food sector.

In 2018, Amberley led a landmark study on school food programs in Canada that yielded insights into school food programming in Canada we have never had access to before. In collaboration with school food policy pioneer Dr. Mary McKenna, their study is the first national baseline of provincially/territorially-funded programming.

Amberley was also the Scientific Co-Lead of the Arrell Food Institute’s Canadian School Food Spotlight Reportwith Dr. Jess Haines, and is a regular op-ed contributor on school food programs.

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.