Sharing the School Meal Potluck

potluck wayne

Before I knew what was happening, an information-sharing meeting of 50 people that I was moderating at FoodShare, Say Yes! to Good Healthy Food in Schools,on November 28 turned into an info potluck – the best thing to happen to my understanding of school meals in a long time and an example of what a [...]

‘The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food’ is Food Tank’s “must read” books of Fall 2013


Four times a year, Food Tank handpicks a selection of books that have recently educated, inspired, and informed their organization.  This fall, Food Tank chose my latest publication, the second edition of the No-Nonsense Guide to World Food, to be on their ‘must read’ list! Check out their insight into my book as well as [...]

Whose land? The displacement of the Mississauga has left Toronto with a major cultural deficit

Toronto is developing a new tagline that’s much more appealing than Hogtown, Toronto the Good or the big smoke. Now we have “Toronto, traditional territory of the Mississauga,” a phrase that opens political meetings these days as speakers remind participants whose land and legacy we are standing on. Even Premier Wynne says it. But new [...]

The Case for Food Hubs


By Wayne Roberts and Lori Stahlbrand Each week during the school year, students and staff at the Palgrave Public School dig into a lunch of fresh, healthy food. On a recent Thursday this past June, the $5 “healthy crunch” salad bar featured an array of lettuce, carrots, zucchini, orange slices, sweet potato quesadillas and strawberry [...]

Quebec City Uses Food as Pioneer Species of Urban Revival

Quebec CIty

By sheer luck, our family stumbled on a little-known urban success story while looking for a place to crash in Quebec City that offered direct access to the throughway to northern Quebec, where our daughter was going to learn French. Right next to Quebec City’s famous central core, preserved as a walled monument of an [...]

Getting to the Right Question on the Nutrient Benefits of Organic Food

organic food

The international media had a field day headlining a Stanford university study dissing the nutritional benefits of organic food. I hope it’s not too late for me to ask a few questions that might steer the debate in a more useful direction. I would like the media to explain why a study that was not [...]

Green Infrastructure and Food


I started my research by typing “crumbling” into Google, and as soon as I hit the first letter in the second word,  up popped “crumbling infrastructure.” I think that shows a lot of people are tracking what is often called a silent crisis of aging sewage and water pipes, bridges, filtration plants and the like. [...]

My dirty secret

dirty little secret

Weird as it seems, this summer’s scary news stories about drought and global water crisis took a load off my shoulders – and allowed me to come clean with a dirty secret I’ve kept from neighbours and friends for almost 20 years. It goes back to an article I wrote during the early 1990s about [...]

No water, no crops: how this year’s North American drought will impact you


I can’t figure out why Mark Twain is considered such a smarty pants for noticing that people always talk about the weather but never do anything about it. If people talk about the weather – this summer’s drought, and its likely impact on runaway food prices and forest fires – that’s deep folk wisdom recognizing [...]

Forest Gardens in Honduras make the best of two worlds


The drought parching harvests in several of the world’s most productive food baskets is the summer’s hottest global food story. Eerily, it’s matched by the season’s hottest archeological finding, which comes across as a cautionary tale. Benjamin Cook, who sifts through mountains of computerized data rather than dusting off shards of pottery like old-fashioned archeologists, [...]

Book Reviews: Avant Gardeners Awake! Food systems affect everything from pollution to mental health.


Food pairs well with writing. Writerly minds are attracted to the food and agriculture scene, and the food and ag scene comes across well on the printed page. It may be because food, agriculture and writing occupations all rely on compulsive-obsessive passion as the substitute for a financial motive for staying in the—pardon the pun—field. [...]

Can Main Street shops stop the traffic jam blues?

Main Street Sign

Going for a drive along a nearby street isn’t my usual idea of a good conversation starter or a way to get to know someone, but it was all for a good cause, so I gave it a try—and ended up seeing the internal workings of my main street for the first time. My assignment [...]

How Food Will Make Edmonton: check out a recent talk I gave in Edmonton, Alberta

Wayne Roberts Cartoon

I recently had the pleasure of giving a presentation at Edmonton’s Food in the City Conference.  Check out my video below! 

New City Moves Help Wipe Away Tears After Rio +20


Suppose they held a United Nations  conference on sustainability and nobody came? As much as leaders of global citizen groups have tried to rally world opinion around the June 20-22 Rio + 20 conference with a petition called The World We Don’t Want — a cute slam at the official declaration called The World We [...]

Mental Health Report Shows Need for Screening Questions on Food


Crazy as it sounds, the Mental Health Commission of Canada – appointed in 2007 by Canada’s Conservatives and received respectfully when its report was released last week – has just tabled Canada’s first- ever mental health strategy. There’s a good chance that a prominent group’s rethink on  mental illness can also provoke some public discussions on how [...]

Human Rights Investigator Hits Sore Point in Review of Canada’s Food Scene

Oliver De Shutter

Nothing befit Olivier de Schutter’s tour of Canada’s food security situation as his leaving it. Two senior federal cabinet ministers heaped scorn on this soft-spoken, mild-mannered and unfailingly-polite Belgian law professor’s May 16 report on inadequate human rights protection in Canadian food policy. The insulting and dismissive response galvanized Canada’s typically localized and health-focused food [...]

Japan’s Earthquake

photo credit

The world is still reeling and shaking from afterthoughts of what happened in March, 2011 when Japan was hit by a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, which exposed how vulnerable all basic institutions have become when Nature acts up—something bound to happen anywhere or anytime in this era of climate change and global transmission of hard-to-treat [...]

Mental Health Report Shows Need for Screening Questions on Food


Crazy as it sounds, the Mental Health Commission of Canada – appointed in 2007 by Canada’s Conservatives and received respectfully when its report was released last week – has just tabled Canada’s first- ever mental health strategy. There’s a good chance that bringing that a prominent group’s rethink on  mental illness can also provoke some [...]

Green Roof Schools


The conflict between sound financial axiom and ludicrous financial dogma will hit the roof at Toronto city council sometime between May 11 and 13  — appropriately enough on the issue of whether schools will be exempted from the city’s much-celebrated green roof bylaw – the first in North America. As with any roof, there’s a [...]

Cities May Look Left to Protect Their Future as Centers of Innovations and Development


It was called “re-imagining our cities,” but the summit was just as much about re-imagining Canada’s social democrats — the New Democratic Party, now positioning itself as a national government in waiting. At one of its first public events since electing Tom Mulcair federal leader, an invitation-only conference hosted by the federal NDP and York [...]

Food Industry Named World’s Worst

KPGM expect the unexpected

Dangerously low levels of sustainability in the food industry may skyrocket to the top of the to-do and worry-about lists of business executives, government officials, and perhaps even environmentalists and shoppers. Late last month, KPMG, one of the top professional services companies in the world, released a report called Expect the Unexpected: Building business value in a [...]

Resource Revolution

steaminh compost heap

Did you hear the one about a physicist, a chemist, and an economist who were stranded on a desert island without any food, when all of a sudden a can of beans was washed ashore? The physicist identifies the pressure points in the can and proposes pounding it with a rock until there’s an opening. [...]

Revolting Food Trends of 2011-2012

food revolt

Four uprisings of global significance surprised the world in 2011, and the spirit of all four will surprise those who manage the food system in 2012—which leads to my choice of year-end and year-beginning  indicators that pick up the colors of these uprisings in emerging habits related to eating. North American sales of local food [...]

Assets in the Dirt: Even if bank economists like Drummond can’t add them up, Ontario has lots we can bank on

money grows on trees?

The people of Ontario have taken two weeks of being kicked in the assets following the release of bank economist Don Drummond’s report on government overspending. The document is one-third wake-up call (we’re spending a lot of money very inefficiently), one-third call to arms for some bold eco-economic thinking and one-third shock therapy designed to [...]

Designs on equality: City planning is a mechanism of discrimination – it mainly serves the able-bodied


Okay, I admit it, the Canadian Urban Institute’s new report doesn’t exactly have a catchy title. But don’t be deceived – Repositioning Age-Friendly Communities: Opportunities To Take AFC Mainstream, far from being a staid policy tract, is actually counselling a radical shakeup in the way cities plan. The operative phrase is “universal design,” and the [...]

Bare essentials: T.O. org puts women’s underpants on Haiti’s aid agenda


On the second anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, let’s get down to a skimpy project that lays bare a whole lot about the men in charge of international emergency aid missions. This has to do with women’s drawers, and their new role in the agenda of global emergency assistance. The story starts here in [...]

The waist in Rob Ford’s Weight Loss Challenge: Mayor Ford’s 2-pounds-a-week ambition casts will power in a heroic role that can’t prevail


Whatever happens in his 330-pound challenge, Mayor Rob Ford has a lot to gain or lose politically from the big publicity splash of his pledge to cut 50 pounds, the halfway mark for his long-term commitment to a healthier weight. The problem is, any effort to cut 2 pounds a week for six months can’t [...]

Have a Gratitudinous New Year


One of the first lessons most of us learned at our mother’s knee about table manners. Hold back before gobbling the grub, and share a moment with everyone at the table to say “grace,” or some toast for all there is to be grateful for. At the end of the meal, at the very latest, [...]

Revolting Food Trends of 2011-12


Four uprisings of global significance surprised the world in 2011, and the spirit of all four will surprise those who manage the food system in 2012—which leads to my choice of year-end and year-beginning  indicators that pick up the colors of these uprisings in emerging habits related to eating. North American sales of local food [...]

Fairly Good Success Story Hits a Snag


Fair Trade sales have skyrocketed to 70 times what they were a decade ago, but  – here comes the bad news – Fair Traders are now suffering from their first serious food fight. Fair trade practices have been especially helpful for coffee farmers around the world. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack) Fair Trade is the best-known [...]

Food’s a trip, Actually a Baker’s Dozen of Trips

photo credit;

By Wayne Roberts Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for [...]

Processing Methods May Move Nutrition to Food Movement Center Stage

Take a pass on food guides, ingredient pyramids, and with any diet books that feature pro-carb, anti-carb, low-fat or packaged solutions of any sort. The emphasis of the food movement may be shifting towards nutrition and the fight against heavily processed foods. Go fresh! The whole field of nutrition – all the way from basic [...]

How City Food can Bridge the Urban-Rural Divide

Photo Credit:

It’s a given that better food habits can help cure what ails individual bodies that are overweight or undernourished, but what if better food habits on the part of city governments can just as effectively help cure what ails the body politic. Our current urban-rural divide needs to be addressed if we want to truly [...]

A Tribute to My Loving Sister Dale Roberts

Dale Roberts

Wayne’s November 19, 2011 memorial tribute to Dale Roberts: Welcome, and thank for you coming to this celebration of Dale Roberts.  I hope we can share many happy memories together, and support each other through our sorrow. Dale wanted this gathering to enjoy one of her favorite views, which I think offers a lovely picture [...]

Four Billion New Reasons Why Food Will Become a Local Government Issue


Last week, the flashbulb explosion met the population explosion, as news cameras clicked at several newborns identified as the seventh billion humans in the world. Now that the global birthday party is over, it’s time for new thinking about preparing food for a party of seven billion. As our population continues to grow, improving urban [...]

Occupy Movement Identifies Food Movement Common Inspiration and Options


This week’s blog comes to you via World Watch: Nourishing the Planet. I have been posting my articles on their site for some time and am hoping that it will encourage my readers to check out their site and vice-versa. This week I offer my view on why Occupy grabs attention and starts a new [...]

Cold Cuts: Maple Leaf Butchers Jobs and Food Security, but No-one Speaks Out

maple leaf question mark

There will be no hogs in Hogtown’s future, but neither does there appear to be any squealing. Toronto’s pre-eminence as a food processing center — the city has long been second only to Chicago in North American food manufacturing – took a hit last week when Maple Leaf Foods shed 1550 jobs from its Canada-wide [...]

Cultivating Conservatism: why radicals in farm country went ‘PC’


A lot of people gave the middle finger to Ontario’s political system last week. Leaving aside any feelings of joy, relief or disappointment about specific election results, these fingers are the signs of a full-fledged democratic deficit that may prove as ominous as our runaway financial and environmental deficits. I’m worried that half of all [...]

The Taste of Cohesion

People's mandala - 12 hands

This week’s blog comes to you via World Watch: Nourishing the Planet. I have been posting my articles on their site for sometime and am hoping that it will encourage my readers to check out their site and visa-versa. So without further adoo, Click Here to read about how cities can eat their way [...]

Jack Layton’s Afterlife Will Keep Us All Busy


The way things look now, it will be as much work keeping up with Jack’s afterlife as it was keeping up with the pace he set in his all-too-brief life down here. His death on August 21 kindled an extraordinary national wide outpouring of sorrow, love and spiritual reflection that will go down in history [...]

What’s Not Infrastructure About Social & Environmental Infrastructure?


Economic geeks tell a joke about Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates that goes a long way to explaining why so many cities face a budgetary crisis that can result in serious tears in the city’s social fabric while undermining its ability to invest in projects that beautify and restore the environment. Gates was crossing a border [...]

Tribute to Jack Layton I gave to Toronto Board of Health September 13, 2011


Thank you for organizing this time to show appreciation for Jack Layton, a central figure in the success story of public health in Canada. Jack gave us many gifts during the many vibrant days of his lifetime, and left us with a monumental gift during his fatal illness, when his generous and giving spirit was [...]

Brain fried? Try a Real Food and Outdoors Tonic; Why Local Food is Key to Calming Frayed City Nerves….

Wayne after 8 days of nature tonic

Before I outline how this could be done, I should explain why I didn’t hand in this article last week, as originally promised. I faced computer problems that Bell Telephone’s exasperating voicemail machines couldn’t respond to, on the very same day I was trying to pack for an eight-day canoe trip while writing a complex [...]

See Why Jack Layton is So Beloved by Checking out The Humulity and Humor of His Roasting of Me on My Retirement From the Toronto Food Policy Council, which he initiated!

Jack was always a supporter of my work and friend. Take a look at why he is so beloved.

Canadian Grieve Jack Layton, Crusader for City Health, Food, Environment and Optimism


By Wayne Roberts Jack Layton’s death on August 22 feels so cry-out-loud tragic – and has touched a chord across the country with an outpouring of national grief, leading the federal government to hold a formal state funeral in his honor – because he was still brimming with vitality, positive energy and hope even as [...]

Why Cities Need a Fresh Serving of Brain Food

brain food

I’ve waited patiently the last two months to see if some city government or health official somewhere might respond to Nature Magazine’s breakthrough article on urban stressors affecting mental illness. Regrettably, there is no gravy, corruption, hacking or sex scandal to make this a story. It’s just the same- old, same-old professional specialists and government [...]

Jack Layton’s Winning Spirit


You don’t really get to know some people until you know them when they’re down. That’s a problem for anyone who wants to write about Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, who’s taking a medical leave while he delas with some health setbacks. Even during his media conference announcing hard news on [...]

Citywatch: Slow Money


A lot of people blame fast buck artists for bringing on the 2008 economic crash, but few have yet looked to slow money artistry to get the economy moving in a better direction. For social investment promoter Woody Tasch, however, the crash was an aha moment that led him to take his stand: the buck [...]

Hop High For Local & Sustainable Craft Beer

tracy phillipi's experience craft beer

I met a beer whisperer at a party last week. She helps beer with real personality express the good times it’s had, the food it wants to pair with, and its place in the proletarian taste division of the local and sustainable food movement. Her name is Tracy Phillippi, and she’s a high-level beer hound [...]

Why Energy Tax Breaks Harm Food and Environment


One nice thing about early posting of the fixed date for Ontario’s upcoming election (October 6, don’t you know?) is that all parties have the same lead time to drop early platform stupidities without too many people noticing. The NDP would be smart to use this headstart to bury promises to phase out harmonized sales [...]

Big Powers Missing in Action on Food Price Crisis but New Leaders Emerge


Find Wayne’s article Here Featured On the WorldWatch Institute website.

One Track Minds Can’t See the Food for the Traffic Jams

Healthy eating traffic lights - play on new food labelling concept

By Wayne Roberts There’s only one issue that gets all right-thinking North Americans yelling out of the far left side of their mouth. Roads. It’s almost universally believed that roads should be built by the state, from each according to the government’s ability, and to each according to their need. Some political junkies think medicare [...]

The World is Watching: Worldwatch Checks Out Wayne Roberts on Food Councils


To read more about the challenges of Toronto food policy in the past and where food policies are heading see how my interview with Supriya Kumar from Worldwatch unfolded here Part Two of the Same Interview can be found here

How government food policy got in your face but not in your heart

Trimming the fat, but how about those sevices?

Cuts to Government Services, But not to Double Standards By Wayne Roberts Politicians at all levels are promising more cuts to government expenses without any cut to services. For politicians, this is better than a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a promise they can keep on promising. For most of the past 40 years, [...]

Plastic Bags


PLASTIC BAGS By Wayne Roberts The looming Toronto council debate about ending the five cent fee required for disposable bags from food retailers wastes almost as much energy as plastic bags made from fossil fuels. No matter what this council decides, the war on plastic bags has barely begun. From a global perspective, Toronto’s decision [...]

Whatever Happened to Election Debates on Economics?


Tears have been wiped dry, major resignations are in, and thoughts about ways of overcoming disproportionate misrepresentation allowing Harpers Conservatives to turn 39 per cent of all votes into a majority government are in the hopper. But the sleeper issue on the political agenda continues to doze. One reason why all pundits are talking about [...]

Time for Ontario’s Neo-Liberal Innovators to Innovate

Fidel Gastro

A new report on Ontario’s economic problems has been released just in time to invite comment and debate from the leadership candidates of both Ontario’s and Canada’s Liberal Party. In one neat package of 75 pages, the government-funded Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress provides an excellent summary of almost everything that is [...]

McGuinty Era in Ontario Reveals Neo-Liberal Formula

Dalton McGuinty

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s misfortune was to govern Ontario – and Ontario’s misfortune was to have him govern – at a time when the province faced three excruciating challenges. Unlike Empire Ontario that set prosperity in place a hundred years ago, today’s Ontario lacks strategic energy and mineral resources that automatically fetch high prices in global [...]

Ontario’s Local Food Act: More Maybe Than Act

(col­lated from assorted press releases)

To get a handle on the Promoting Local Food Act tabled in the Ontario legislature on October 4, it helps to know the difference between government support and government policy. If you choose door 1 and get support, you’re in luck. If you choose door 2 and get policy, that’s the booby prize. When occasion [...]

The new edition of the “No-Nonsense Guide to World Food” has arrived!


Wayne’s new book is here!! Wayne Roberts has been hard at work updating his 2008 publication “The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food” To get your copy of the book please visit this site! “Couldn’t be more timely, especially given the great deal of rubbish being served to a public hungry for answers about their food [...]

Why did Harper Invite the Chinese Government to Buy Canada’s Tar Sands?

photo courtesy of

Oil politics makes for greasy bedfellows, and that accounts for some odd and ominous slipping and sliding on the part of Albertan oil developers and their guy in Ottawa, prime minister Stephen Harper. Back in the 1980s, gas and oil tycoons were so ticked at prime minister Pierre Trudeau for creating Petro-Canada — a  government-owned  [...]