30Lab Spotlight: Food, Shelter & Advocacy in The Hands of The Youth!

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Author: Gurneet Dhami

Gurneet was a participant in Future City Builders Halifax and is currently completing her MSc in Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. Travelling between the concert jungle of Toronto to the coastal city of Halifax, Gurneet enjoys the best of both worlds which goes on to support her work thesis grounded in diversity and inclusion.She strives to look beyond the plate in understanding why and how social issues become health concerns as a dietetic professional in training.


The 17 SDGs identified by the United Nations

The year of 2019 has been one of potential as projects and policies have gathered people from all over to discuss the future of Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a key part of sustaining the future is the attention to the “conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” Additionally, many organizations within Canada are working with the UN’s 2030 Global Development Goals for sustainable development on both a national and international level.


The themes around zero hunger, sustainable cities and communities aim to tackle issues brought up in the Future City Builders Cohort from across Canada. Housing, for instance, was a theme tackled by youth in Halifax, and Toronto, both of which I got to experience as a presenter and attendee. The winning pitches, ROOF from Halifax took form as a social networking app to work with community while CommunAlley from Toronto, took the rod to make community with space in the nicks and crannies of the city for alternative housing.



ROOF was the grand prize winner in Halifax

FCB Toronto winner - Communalley

A theme that ties well with housing is food security, which brought with it an array of ideas from the 30 Lab in Calgary as they gauged with the community to support discussions of food at the table. The winning team Feed Your Flat brought forth the garden concept to Calgarians lacking a backyard to grow food. Together, food and shelter are the essentials to survival, which is why policies and services need to be in place to help sustain efforts for generations of youth to come.


Calgary team Feed Your Flat pitched an apartment agriculture kit

FCB Halifax’s Mini City Builders team of Bryanna Kenny, Matthew MacKay-Lyons, Gurneet Dhami, and Alberto Serracin; Photo Credit: Lumi Studios

As a nutrition student, I have found in my studies and experience that “factors off your plate influence a lot of what's on your plate.” Holding an intersectional perspective that incorporates the social determinants of health is crucial in seeing the “big picture” of how social, economic, and political factors influence one’s life outlook. Participating with the Future City Builders Halifax 30 Lab has taught me that we all have lived experience that matter in shaping the future of where we eat, play and most importantly live!


It’s from gatherings and advocacy from people near and far which have brought forth many firsts with policy and projects in Canada. The 3 key reads include Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, National Housing Strategy, and The Food Policy. As election season nears, it's important for youth to get their voice heard by participating in or leading conversations on issues that matter to them most because after all, we are the next generation of leaders!

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