Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – An innovative agriculture literacy program at the University of Calgary has secured a $1 Million donation from BMO.

The Simpson Centre for Food and Agriculture Policy at the university’s School of Public Policy says the donation will support the launch of the Agriculture Literacy for Healthier People and Planet program. The initiative will address the complexities of agricultural systems while emphasizing the pivotal role food plays in human health and environmental sustainability.

Dr. Guillaume Lhermie, Director of the Simpson Centre, says the program is designed to educate the public about where food comes from.

University of Calgary
Dr. Guillaume Lhermie – Director, The Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy speaking at the launch of the Agriculture Literacy for Healthier People and Planet program

“It will reach a broad range of audiences, including formal stakeholders such as research, industry, and government, as well as informal audiences such as consumers and citizens,” says Lhermie. “We are particularly focused on engaging young adults and teenagers who are active on social media and eager to participate in shaping the future of food systems.”

He believes people should understand the complexities of the agricultural system, where the food we eat plays a crucial role in our health and the health of our planet.

“We embrace a one-health approach. We recognize there’s a dependence between the health of the planet, the environment, animals and humans. We need to work together and think about policies to make it better.”

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The program will deliver numerous written and digital resources to educate the public on controversial issues like the use of GMOs, pesticides, and food labels. It will also survey consumer knowledge and actively engage with citizens.

“Digital communication will be key for the program’s success,” says Lhermie. “We’ll use it to mobilize a network of people and tell them we will develop good information. It will be available to anyone who wants to push that information to their contacts. So, we are counting on the fact there will be exponential growth in the dissemination of information.”

The program will be conducted in collaboration with 13 Canadian universities and Stanford University in the U.S. over a five-year period. These academic partners will engage in extensive outreach and research to enhance public knowledge and inform the development of agricultural policies. Over those five years, it aims to deliver investigations of food-related misinformation on social media platforms; citizen assemblies, including educational packages, videography and outreach, and a targeted communications campaign to actively engage the public with program deliverables.

In a release, Helen Seibel, Head of Employee & Community Giving at BMO, emphasized the importance of the initiative, saying it aligns with BMOs mission to drive sustainable progress.

“BMO is a proud partner of Ag Literacy for Healthier People and Planet to help broaden the understanding and importance of sustainable innovation within the agricultural food system and how our communities interact with it.”

You can learn more about the program by visiting the website.