Tip of the iceberg: a systems approach to understanding food insecurity in northern Canada

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm EDT

Northern Canada is home to approximately 120 remote Indigenous communities where the only way in or out is by air. The price of food, especially nutritious or perishable foods, can be extreme—a typical household of two adults and two children spends an average of $2,800 on food per month. Unsurprisingly, between 24 and 68% of each community experiences some form of food insecurity compared to the Canada-wide average of 13%. Northern food insecurity is typically attributed to the sheer remoteness and cost of air freight in relation to food pricing, but in this talk, we will explore why this view is woefully incomplete. We will use a systems approach to explore: how food insecurity manifests in the daily lives of northern residents, the supply chain challenges faced by northern retailers, the limitations of traditional airlines, and the federal government's impact through the lasting effects of colonial policies along with modern food subsidy programs. Most importantly, we will discuss how we can begin to address these complex issues. Those working in or studying transportation systems will walk away with a rigorous framework for thinking about supply chain challenges in hard-to-reach areas.

About the speaker
J Wang

Dr. Jeremy C. H. Wang is a Canadian aerospace engineer and the co-founder and COO of Ribbit, a pilotless cargo airline that develops autonomous aircraft to improve rural and remote supply chains. Jeremy spent the last 7 years working in aerial robotics and autonomous flight, having previously served as the CTO of Canada's top commercial drone operator where he led the development of special-purpose drones for industrial and defence clients. In 2020, Jeremy co-founded Ribbit with Carl Pigeon to help make air transportation more widely accessible. Ribbit is credited with the first hands-free gate-to-gate flight in Canada, and is on track to begin testing commercial cargo flights in 2024. This work has led Jeremy to acquire deep expertise in northern supply chains, express air freight, and food insecurity. Jeremy holds a BASc in Engineering Science (University of Toronto) and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering (University of Waterloo), and his research interests span autonomous systems, compressible flows, and economics.