Printer-friendly > Home > Prospective Students > Why Grad School at UBC's Okanagan campus? > Beischer, Ailsa

Beischer, Ailsa


Profile for Ailsa BeischerResearch Topic: Second Harvest: Exploring Food Justice Through a Local Gleaning Project

Research Location: Kelowna, BC

Research Supervisor: Dr. Jon Corbett

Research Description:

In recent years, critiques of the global food system have identified longstanding injustices perpetuated against the working poor, indigenous communities, minorities, and other marginalized groups. These discussions have given way to an emerging alternative food movement (AFM) that encourages consumers to choose food that is fresh, local, and often organic over industrially produced and processed food. Unfortunately, the AFM has failed to adequately address deeply embedded disparities within the food system and in instances has created new injustices. As a result, unequal access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, remains a largely invisible political issue. Using the example of the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project (OFTP), a community gleaning project in British Columbia, Canada, I aim to explore how a food justice praxis helps build community capacity to influence policy around food poverty, as well as, contribute to making issues of food justice more visible. My proposed research uses Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a guiding approach to engage key members of the food system as co-collaborators in the research process.

Home Town: West Kelowna, BC

Country: Canada

Faculty/School:  Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences

Program:  Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree to address a pragmatic need in my community. In the past year alone food bank usage has grown by 4% in Kelowna and West Kelowna. This means that, in March 2014 for example, 4,000 people relied on the food bank and over 1/3 of users were children. A systemic pattern of injustice also became apparent during my employment as the coordinator for the OFTP, a non-profit organization that gleans (harvests) unused fruit to donate to community organizations. In the past two years, a growing number of volunteers and recipients of fruit donations articulated their experiences of exclusion from participating in alternative, or niche, local food initiatives. Instead, these individuals rely on low-priced, nutritionally-poor food or emergency food assistance. I continue to witness this exclusion in my outreach activities as a board member of the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council (COFPC). The trends of increasing food poverty in Kelowna amidst the rise of the AFM led me to pursue my MA at UBC Okanagan to investigate more democratic, participatory, and socially just ways to access food.

Why did you decide to study at UBC's Okanagan campus?

Although I had offers from other schools, I chose to complete my MA at UBC Okanagan because I am firmly rooted in community through my work with the OFTP and COFPC. I was also aware of the food security needs of the Okanagan and wanted my research to have a local impact.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope that my research will lead to a Kelowna-focused food action plan. Moreover, I hope that the PAR process will directly engage community stakeholders working in the food security field. Ultimately, the goal is to discover food justice strategies that open up new spaces for dialogue and action to create more inclusive food systems based on equality and democracy.

What has been your most memorable Okanagan experience so far?

I grew up in the Okanagan and have many wonderful memories. One of my most memorable is being part of a community garden that my mom started when I was young. I grew up working in the garden each summer and seeing how much it meant to people to be able to grow and access food in a dignified way, while being part of a community.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

Winning this award has meant a lot to me. I am so grateful to have my graduate studies funded and excited that the granting agency also thinks this community-based research is important and topical. 


Canadian Graduate Scholarship Master Program - SSHRC Graduate Scholarship






Last reviewed shim11/20/2015 2:25:45 PM