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Thought for Food: Essential Skills and Food System Performance. University of Saskatchewan University of Regina University of Victoria Saskatoon Co-operative Association CHEP Good Food Inc. Introduction/Overview.

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thought for food essential skills and food system performance

Thought for Food: Essential Skills and Food System Performance

University of Saskatchewan

University of Regina

University of Victoria

Saskatoon Co-operative Association

CHEP Good Food Inc.

introduction overview


Michael Gertler, PhD, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives/Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan

research team schema
Research Team Schema





Saskatoon Co-op



  • Nutrition Coordinator Study
  • Soy Food Study
  • Baking Study
  • Breast Feeding Study
  • Food Quality Study
  • Multi-Generational Food Knowledge & Skills Study


research team
Research Team
  • Faculty
    • A.Blunt, M.Gertler, C. Henry, J.Jaffe, S.Whiting
    • Carol Vandale – Assistant Researcher
  • Community partners:
    • Karen Archibald – CHEP Good Food Inc
    • Collin Merritt – Saskatoon Co-op
  • Graduate Students:
    • Lori Evert
    • Elisabeth Lo
    • Paula Negraes
    • Flo Woods
    • Timothy Zagozewski
food sector actors
Food Sector Actors
  • Frontline workers (& managers) in a Co-op supermarket
  • Bakers in industrial, in-store, small commercial, and artisan bakeries
  • Consumers/shoppers purchasing soy products/functional foods
  • Volunteer and part-time workers in school breakfast/lunch programs
  • Women involved with home cooking (three generations study)
  • Breastfeeding mothers
some relevant food skills
Some Relevant Food Skills
  • Reading/decoding/interpreting labels/recipes
  • Assessing multiple dimensions of quality/value
  • Analyzing food system impacts of purchase/ consumption decisions
  • Developing/deploying nutritional literacy
  • Breastfeeding (with confidence/competence)
  • Cooking and baking
  • Understanding cultural & social uses of food
food system performance
Food System Performance
  • Population nutritional and health status
  • Viability of food sector (commercial and alternative) enterprises
  • Capacities/knowledge of domestic, commercial, social economy food purveyors
  • Food security, especially of vulnerable populations
  • Ecological and economic costs of provisioning activities
changing food system contexts
Changing Food System Contexts
  • Industrialization of primary production, processing, manufacturing
  • Focus on food retailing, restaurant/fast food sector, food services/brokers
  • Increased role of institutional food providers: hospitals, prisons, military, schools, food banks…
  • Chemical, biotechnological revolutions combined with health/medical complexities increase knowledge needs for “informed” consumption
shifting landscapes for nutrition coordinators

Shifting Landscapes for Nutrition Coordinators

Carol Vandale, MEd,

University of Saskatchewan

research partners
Research Partners

Breakfast for Learning

Canadian Living



Institute for

Social Research

Breakfast/Snack Programs in

Saskatchewan Elementary Schools:

Benefits, Barriers,

& Essential Skills

Thought for Food

Essential Skills

Research Team

CHEP Good Food Inc.

es component of study
ES Component of Study
  • ES research questions:
    • What ES are needed by nutrition coordinators to deliver the breakfast/snack programs?
    • What are the roles of community-based partnerships associated with these programs?
  • Research sample:
    • Interviewed 17 Nutrition Coordinators – 5 Educational Assistants (EA) and 12 Volunteer Nutrition Coordinators (VNC)
volunteer nutrition coordinators
Volunteer Nutrition Coordinators
  • Predominantly limited to Saskatoon
  • Paid an honorarum
  • No standard job descriptions, roles, or responsibilities
  • Educational levels vary greatly
  • VNCs expressed interest in having their work incorporate more educational programming
nutritional educational assistants
Nutritional Educational Assistants
  • Saskatchewan training options:
    • Early Childhood Education Certificate/Diploma
    • Educational Assistant Certificate/Diploma
  • No formal nutrition or food preparation training – some health promotion training
  • EAs interviewed want a specific job description for a Nutritional Educational Assistant with appropriate training and remuneration.
chep good food inc
CHEP Good Food Inc.
  • Role - support the Volunteer Nutrition Coordinators
  • Role is shifting to an emphasis on training and advocacy for VNCs
  • Current partnerships changing
  • Challenges
chep good food inc and essential skills

CHEP Good Food Inc. and Essential Skills

Karen Archibald, MA, Director

CHEP Good Food Inc.

chep good food inc formerly child hunger and education program
CHEP Good Food Inc.(formerly Child Hunger and Education Program)

CHEP - Working with children, families and communities to achieve solutions to hunger and improve access to good food for all.

chep food security
CHEP & food security
  • A food security analysis provides the foundation for the policy and program work of the organization.
  • Saskatoon Food Charter guides development of healthy food system for region
  • Community based programming includes children’s nutrition (meal) programs, food education programs, collective kitchens, community gardening, senior’s stores, farm links, good food box and others
  • Participatory and peer leader model – CHEP offers several training programs for community members and seeks to connect participants with opportunities to generate income for family
activities completed
Activities completed
  • CHEP was a partner in Benefits of Breakfast and Essential Skills study
  • Exploring the role of Voluntary Sector participants within Essential Skills framework
  • Study helps identify skills needed for nutrition coordinators
  • Study informs CHEP in development of strategic directions for children’s programming
activities underway 2006
Activities underway 2006
  • We are about to conduct an Essential Skills profiling of nutrition coordinator’s role/occupation
  • We will be using national ES methodology to develop the profile
  • Profile will serve as basis for training program for CHEP coordinators and potentially all nutrition coordinators in province
future activities
Future activities
  • Use profiling to do a comparison between ES of coordinators in Voluntary Sector with occupations in market sector.
  • Comparison may enable us to access the employability of the coordinators in voluntary sector
  • This approach to human resources development within a community may be a new approach to retail training in food sector
  • Results will enable opportunities for nutrition coordinators to make transition to formal employment such as with the Saskatoon Coop, the Saskatoon School Divisions, and in development of to develop new small businesses,
consumers and retail food employees attitudes knowledge and skills re soyfoods

Consumers’ and Retail Food Employees’ Attitudes, Knowledge, and Skills re Soyfoods

Paula Negraes, M.Sc.PhD Candidate, University of Saskatchewan

attitudes knowledge and skills re soyfoods
Attitudes, Knowledge, and Skills re Soyfoods
  • Goals:
    • To understand consumers’ and employees’ perceptions & knowledge
  • To understand skills needed by consumers and employees to make decisions that influence families’ health
  • Self-administered Questionnaire & Interviews
  • 2 Saskatoon Co-op supermarkets (A & B)
  • shoppers (females,males), >19 years
  • employees: management & floor staff (purposeful sampling)
    • Shoppers: 304 participants
    • Employees: 6 floor staff, 2 management
  • Consumers:
    • Need knowledge about soy and cooking
  • Employees:
    • Need to understand

functional foods to assist


  • Label reading
  • Numeracy for portion sizes, food preparation tips
  • Oral communication skill
  • Continuous learning

Results confirmed the need for literacy and essential skills for consumers & employees regarding soyfoods, e.g.:

re making bread industrial technologies and the skills of food industry workers

(Re)Making Bread: Industrial Technologies and the Skills of Food Industry Workers

Tim Zagozewski, MA Candidate,

University of Saskatchewan

  • A Sociology of Work project in a food context:
    • Observe changing skills for food system workers
    • Develop a more nuanced definition of skill
    • Critique the Essential Skills program
    • Contribute to sociological literature on Fordist and post-Fordist conceptions of the economy
  • A case study approach including multiple research sites:
    • Co-op Food Store - Bakery
      • Observation
      • Interviews with food workers/managers
  • Suppliers:
    • Federated Co-operative Limited
    • Industrial bakery supplier
  • Competitors
    • McGavin’s Baking Facility
understanding breastfeeding discourse and experiences

Understanding Breastfeeding Discourse and Experiences

Lori Evert, MA Candidate,

University of Regina

research aim
Research AIM
  • Objectives: to understand the everyday experiences of women around breastfeeding, dominant breastfeeding discourse, as well as the conflicts that may arise between the two.
  • Essential Skills required to breastfeed and teach breastfeeding are changing.
changes in breastfeeding
Changes in Breastfeeding
  • Past – learned through apprenticeship
  • Present – learn through text / discourse
  • Learn from: LaLeche League, public health nurses, and maternity ward nurses
  • Recognition of change & conflicts
research plan
Research Plan
  • Interviews with mothers
  • Interviews with breastfeeding educators
  • Aim to better asses the skills each require

Analysis of breastfeeding education literature

This research will point to possible policy alternatives that could help both groups obtain necessary ES.

co op essential skills study

Co-op & Essential Skills Study

Collin Merritt, Manager, Saskatoon Co-op

co op essential skills
Co-op & Essential Skills



Staff training


  • Study:
  • Soy consumption study
  • Consumers’ perception
  • on quality

Study cites need

For support

resources: staff

consumers perception of quality
Consumers’ Perception of Quality
  • Quality  important and multidimensional  diverse influences on people during shopping
  • Goals:
    • To understand consumers’ perception of quality and willingness to pay
    • To provide employees with skills to communicate knowledge of quality to consumers
    • To improve the food quality provided in store
approach to the study
Approach to the Study
  • Involve staff: purchasing, produce managers
  • Involve customers: quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews
  • Focus on produce
  • Food quality criteria: how do staff and

customers understand quality?

How does the store offer quality?

  • Communicate quality to consumers
multi generational food knowledge and skills research

Multi-Generational Food Knowledge and Skills Research

JoAnn Jaffe, PhD,

Department of Sociology and Social Studies,

University of Regina

theoretical grounding
Theoretical Grounding

This research uses a critical realist approach as a basis for understanding knowledge and skill in a western Canadian regional food system, recognizing that they are embedded in a dialectical, hierarchical and differentiated social reality.

critical approaches to food knowledge and skills
Critical Approaches to Food Knowledge and Skills

Structured by logic of competitive relations of production

Structured by logic of social locations and roles, status and identity, resistance and compliance, comfort, sociality, community………

the social context of food knowledge and skills
The Social Context of Food Knowledge and Skills
  • The development of agribusiness and the effect of commoditization and deskilling of production
  • Relations of consumption
  • Communities of (food) practice
  • Sites of practices
  • Expressions of practical knowledge
  • Food consumption and preparation practices’ relationship to status, solidarity, and identity
the research plan
The Research Plan

Semi-structured interviews of successive generations of family cooks

Case studies capturing narratives and practices

Cluster analysis to identify and describe communities of practice

Data evaluation to see how food thinking skills are related to collective food styles.

outcomes of the research
Outcomes of the Research

The development and elaboration of a framework for discussing and evaluating food knowledge and skills as central elements in food sovereignty.

An assessment of how a critical approach to ES might fit into the development of capacity for the creation of alternatives—individually, within the community, and regionally.



JoAnn Jaffe, PhD,

Department of Sociology and Social Studies,

University of Regina


Food Knowledge and Skills

  • Knowledge exists and is valorized in

specific contexts and through practices

  • Food knowledge is reflexive
  • Food, the “intimate commodity,” is

essential to multiple dimensions of well-


  • Food knowledge advances through a

“double movement:” commercial rationality

and social resistance


Essential Skills

  • ES approaches may support (or undermine) diverse social projects
  • Question: How will ES approaches impinge on food system performance, itself a contested and multi-dimensional idea?