Our Instructors

Our teaching team brings applied and scholarly expertise to every course. They are leading figures in the field – experienced, knowledgeable, and in touch with the dynamic transformations taking place in North America and in global food security arenas.


Lauren Baker is the coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council, and formerly the founding director of Sustain Ontario: The Alliance for Healthy Food and Farming. She has a PhD from York University. In addition to being a certificate course instructor and lecturer at the University of Toronto, she is a food researcher and activist with over 15 years of experience. Lauren’s areas of interest include local food economies and networks, health-focused food systems, sustainable agriculture, food policy, and multi-stakeholder governance processes. From 1997–2003, Lauren worked at FoodShare as the founding urban agriculture program coordinator.

Alexander Belyakov (PhD) is an alumnus of The Chang School’s Food Security and Sustainability Management programs. He has taught at Humber College and universities across Europe and has done widespread research on food policies, sustainability, and communications.

Dr. Belyakov publishes and speaks on food security issues. He is a recent contributor to a special issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, published by the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS), which focuses on North American food resilience. Dr. Belyakov has successfully expanded on the research of the topic “From Chernobyl to Fukushima: Responses During Nuclear Emergencies and Lessons for Food Security Policies,” which was introduced during his session at the 2013 Yale Food System Symposium.

Dr. Belyakov combines his research with extensive international experience. His teaching is supplemented with work in international projects with German governmental institutions; United Nations Development Program; USAID; visiting scholarships in the US and Germany; as well as academic research in sustainability, risk communications, and environmental studies. His research interests in food security lie in the areas of food and sustainability, food policies (especially food security policy analysis), emergency management, and food security.

Marielle Dubbeling (MSc) is the global coordinator of the RUAF From Seed to Table Programme (2009–2011) and was the policy adviser in the RUAF Cities Farming for the Future project. In these functions, she supports over 20 cities and other local and national stakeholders (NGOs, research institutes, government staff, producer organizations) in developing urban agriculture programs and policies. She is also a senior adviser at ETC Agriculture in the Netherlands. Before joining ETC and RUAF, she worked with the UN HABITAT Urban Management Programme in Latin America, where she supported the development of municipal programs on urban agriculture in cities in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. In between her many travels, Marielle always tries to find time to grow her own food.

Irena Knezevic (PhD) is a postdoctoral fellow with the Participatory Action Research and Training Centre on Food Security at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Irena has also taught at York University, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Ryerson. She is one of the founding members of the Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS), where she served as secretary/treasurer from 2007–2010. Irena has also worked with the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) and helped launch the Meadowlark Organic Farm on Pelee Island, Ontario. She has published work on food labels; food policy and trade; genetically modified food; geographical indications and terroir; hunting and the food system; public relations firms and agri-business; and more generally on economic globalization.

In addition to her work at Mount Saint Vincent University, Irena is currently the research coordinator for the multi-institutional research project on local food – the project is based out of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph and funded by SSHRC and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mustafa Koc is professor in Ryerson’s Department of Sociology and a founding co-director of the Centre for Studies in Food Security. Combining undergraduate training in Turkey with a PhD (University of Toronto), Mustafa has a particular interest in the globalization of the food system and immigrant experiences of food. He has published and spoken extensively on these and related subjects and sits on many international committees reviewing research on food and sociology. A great cook, Mustafa loves collecting old recipe books.

James Kuhns works in urban agriculture and food security-related activities. He is the Food Access Coordinator at CRC, in Regent Park, Toronto, and co-coordinator of the MetroAg Alliance for Urban Agriculture. James also is the immediate past president of the American Community Gardening Association, a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council, and an avid backyard gardener. He holds an MSc in agricultural development (London).

Jean-Charles Le Vallée (PhD) is a food security analyst and lecturer, food policy advisor, and agricultural economist, with extensive research, policy, and program experience in global and local food security issues in a dozen countries. He has worked for the World Bank, FAO, IFPRI, the World Food Prize, USAID, CIDA, MSU, and on Inuit food insecurity. He has coordinated Canada’s Food Security Bureau and also managed one of the world’s largest Internet food security communities with over 10,000 members in 126 countries. He is the author of Achieving Food Security Through Food System Resilience: the Case of Belize, and has published work on lessons from the 2007–08 food price crisis and fostering political will for food security. He is currently a senior researcher at the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food.

Meredith Kushnir is a food security and community development specialist and is currently the international program coordinator with REAP-Canada. She holds an MA in development studies that centred on the intersections between food security, sustainable agriculture, and gender in rural Gambia and Senegal. She has worked, travelled, and volunteered throughout parts of Eastern, Western and Southern Africa, Asia, and South America. In addition to all food-related issues, Meredith’s specific interests include participatory/action research and programming; food sovereignty and sustainability; nutrition; gender equality; sustainable farming systems; renewable energy; and communication. She also sits on the steering committee for the Canadian Environmental Network International Program Caucus.

Wendy Mendes is an adjunct professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, a research associate at Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security, and an urban planner (with a focus on urban food systems) for the City of Vancouver. Her research and teaching interests are local governance, sustainability, and participatory decision making with a specialization in urban food systems in Canada, the United States, and Latin America. Wendy holds a PhD in Urban Geography, and loves combining research and practice.

Andrea Moraes teaches Gender and Food Security and holds a PhD in Rural Sociology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she researched the participation of women in Brazilian water access programs. Andrea also worked at York University as coordinator for a CIDA-funded development project on civil society’s participation in water management in Brazil. Furthermore, she taught at Rio State University, the University of Missouri, and York University. Andrea’s academic interests include gender and development; water and food security; Latin America and specifically Brazil; as well as studies concerned with social justice and participatory democracy.

Joe Nasr (PhD) is an independent scholar, lecturer, and consultant, covering an array of contemporary and historical urban planning issues. He has been working on urban agriculture and food issues globally for two decades, as reflected in two courses he teaches – on urban food security and understanding urban agriculture – as part of The Chang School’s Certificate in Food Security. Other recent activities as associate of Ryerson’s Centre for Studies in Food Security include mentoring Ryerson architecture students on design issues related to food and agriculture; co-curating the traveling exhibit “Carrot City: Designing for Urban Agriculture,” first shown in Spring, 2009, at Toronto’s Design Exchange and now turned into a book; co-organizing the growTO speakers series; and advising the Rye’s HomeGrown project.

Dr. Nasr has been affiliated for over a decade with the Urban Agriculture Network, a not-for-profit organization that he co-founded and now heads, and he co-coordinates MetroAg – Alliance for Urban Agriculture, as well as Toronto Urban Growers. The 1996 book he co-authored, Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities, has become the standard text on the subject. A book he co-edited in 2004, Interfaces: Agricultures et villes à l’Est et au Sud de la Méditerranée, has been translated into Arabic. In 2005–2007, he coordinated a project on “Regional Training and Knowledge Sharing in Urban Agriculture for the Middle East and North Africa,” focusing on a three-country training course.

Joe holds a doctorate in urban and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at seven universities. Since completing his studies in 1997, he has been Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in Sustainable Food Systems at Eugene Lang College – The New School for Liberal Arts, Fulbright Scholar in Lebanon and Jordan, Leverhulme Trust Visiting Fellow in England, and Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Lebanon.

Reg Noble (PhD) is the Academic Coordinator of The Chang School’s Certificate in Food Security. He is a consultant on sustainable livelihoods and community development issues, and has led missions for international development agencies such as DANIDA, DFID, the United Nations FAO, IFAD, NORAD, UNDP, and OXFAM Canada. He is a research associate at Ryerson’s Centre for Studies in Food Security, a workshop facilitator and trainer in collaborative learning approaches for sustainable environmental management, and a founding member of the nonprofit International Support Group. Reg has taught at several universities in the UK (London, Edinburgh, and Stirling), Africa (Chancellor College, Malawi and Ibadan, Nigeria), and is currently a visiting professor to the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. Reg is also a visiting speaker on global food security and human rights for the UNESCO Institute for Comparative Human Rights at the University of Connecticut. Having worked in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, Reg combines his PhD in ecology (London) with extensive international experience.

Cecilia Rocha (PhD in Economics) is the current Director of the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, where she is an associate professor of food security and food policy. From 2004 to 2010, Dr. Rocha was the director of the project Building Capacity in Food Security in Brazil, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. Her work and publications on Belo Horizonte have brought international attention to that Brazilian city’s innovative policies and programs for food security.

Cecilia is an associate researcher and past director (2005–2010) of the Centre for Studies in Food Security, and associate researcher of the Centre for Global Health and Health Equity at Ryerson University. She has participated in research on food security conditions among immigrant populations in Toronto, and was an active member of the Toronto Food Policy Council from 2006 to 2011. Invited to be part of the Toronto Food Strategy Steering Group, she participated in the elaboration of the 2011 Toronto Food Strategy under the leadership of the city’s medical officer of health.

Salwa Tohmé Tawk, PhD in Farming Systems and Development (Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon), MSc in Crop Production and Protection and in Sustainable Development (American University of Beirut). Dr. Tawk has been a research associate and lecturer at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut; knowledge management officer of the Middle East and North Africa regional center on Urban Agriculture; editor of the Arabic version of the urban agriculture magazine with the ESDU (Environment and Sustainable Development Unit at the American University of Beirut) and RUAF (Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security); president of the board of Mada, a local Lebanese not-for-profit organization. Salwa works in designing, executing, and evaluating projects; conducting field surveys and assessing needs; analyzing local resources and constraints; and identifying farming systems in urban and rural areas of Lebanon, Jordan, and Yemen.