Sustainable food chains and well-being in research

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Rachel Friedman, a Banting Fellow
Rachel Friedman, a Banting Fellow (photo supplied)

Food supply chains and the connections between ecosystem health and human well-being are key research themes for postdoctoral researcher Rachel Friedman.

As a Banting fellow in the Departments of Geography and Political Science, Friedman focuses on how policy changes could reduce the social and environmental impacts of imported food supply chains into Canada.

Everything we eat has an impact we don't see—from the coffee that starts off our mornings to the piece of chocolate snuck in before bed. This research will further our understanding of how to mitigate such impacts." 

— Rachel Friedman

Previously, Friedman researched climate change vulnerability and adaptation within smallholder farming and forestry communities. In her current work, she has shifted to engage more with commodity crops—such as coffee and cocoa—agricultural markets and supply chains. Her interest lies in how consumer demand and corporate practice—driven by regulation or social and environmental accountability initiatives—can be harnessed to protect ecosystems and ensure sustainable livelihoods for farming communities.

I'm excited about this fellowship, as it allows me to broaden the focus of my research—which has mostly centered on the food producers in the tropics and sub-tropics—to consider the consumer country drivers and responsibilities for the environmental degradation and social injustices that arise along these supply chains."

— Rachel Friedman

Linking the consumer and producer parts of food supply chains is critical for a holistic understanding of environmental and social impacts and associated solutions. For Friedman, this research fits into a broader motivation to work toward a more just and sustainable future. “I care a lot about local agriculture, alternative transportation, such as by foot, bicycle and train, and conscious consumption, including buying second-hand and only when necessary, to improve sustainability domestically.”

Friedman finished her PhD at the University of Queensland, looking at community-based forest management, social equity and human well-being in Indonesia. Prior to that, she completed an Master of Philosophy at the University of Oxford on climate change vulnerability of Ghanaian women cocoa farmers. Before starting the Banting Fellowship, she was a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions.

Her work ties into international environment and development policies such as the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).



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Keywords: sustainability, research, globalization, climate, environment

People: Rachel Friedman

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