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Food security focuses on ensuring people’s right to food – creating sustainable food systems based on social justice and democratic decision-making.

This unique, fully online, leading-edge program explores food-related health and education issues, food policy, environmental sustainability, human rights, and alleviation of food insecurity.

Help address food issues by working in civil society organizations and public sector agencies in Canada and worldwide. Learn how to engage the private sector to initiate the transformation to a more equitable and sustainable system of production, processing, and marketing.

Our food security teaching team is recognized internationally in the field. Having lived and worked around the globe, they understand the challenges of implementing food security in Canada and the developing world.

This program received the 2013 Sloan-C Special Recognition for Pedagogical Innovation Award and the 2013 CAUCE Award of Excellence for Credit Programming under 48 Hours. This award-winning program can be completed entirely online.

What Will You Learn?

a farmer lady

This program covers research and practice across local, national, and international communities.

At the end of the certificate, you will have the skills and knowledge to:

  • define food security at individual, household, community, and national levels
  • apply appropriate research and evaluation methods for assessing food security
  • plan and undertake assessment of household and community food security
  • determine the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in a population
  • articulate the social and cultural dimensions of food security
  • design collaborative processes for building household and community food security
  • apply current economic thinking to strengthening food security
  • initiate development of food policy and programs for a right to food
  • contribute to planning for improving urban food security
  • develop urban food production initiatives to bolster urban food systems
  • identify the requirements for creating sustainable food systems based on social justice
  • articulate the challenges of achieving food security at national and global levels

Who Should Take This Certificate?

The Certificate in Food Security attracts students who are committed to ensuring social justice regarding dignified access to safe, nutritious foods irrespective of socioeconomic status. Because the certificate is offered in a fully online format, our students come from around the world.

This certificate is a post-degree program and includes degree-credit and graduate degree-credit courses, so it can be a stepping stone from undergraduate studies to entry into master’s and PhD programs in food security or related studies. Master’s and PhD students in fields related to food security complete the certificate to add to their suite of skills. Students in graduate programs at other universities also take food security courses as degree credits in their programs – you are required to request approval from your faculty for the credit transfers.

Our students typically have backgrounds in a field related to food security, such as:

  • domestic and/or international community development
  • nutrition
  • public health
  • politics and public administration
  • agriculture
  • education
  • media
  • economic and/or environmental planning
  • social work
  • sociology
  • food business sector

Students with no knowledge of food security who are passionate about the subject and wish to learn more, as well as those with no previous food security experience, also take the certificate as a means to change careers.

Other students have experience related to food security and wish to broaden their knowledge and gain an official academic credential to advance their careers.

Who Teaches the Courses?

Our food security teaching team is recognized internationally in the field. Having lived and worked around the globe, they understand the challenges of implementing food security in Canada and the developing world.


Industry and Careers

a farmer girl

Many of our graduates find work with:

  • domestic and international agencies
  • non-governmental organizations
  • community development organizations
  • public health agencies
  • university-based institutes and centres
  • long-term care homes

Recent reports by the United Nations and new international groups such as 100 Resilient Cities – Toronto and Vancouver are members – have highlighted the significance of city-regional sustainability. With over 50 percent of the global population now being urban, many cities see food security as a focal point for achieving sustainability. Our Certificate in Food Security, with its strong urban agriculture component and emphasis on multi-stakeholder planning for community food security, can help to fulfil the rapidly growing demand for professionals in urban food security and food systems.

Here are some examples of professional positions held by our graduates:

  • director of a nonprofit organization supporting local farmers in Ontario
  • manager of an urban farm social enterprise in Toronto
  • program officer for the World Food Programme in Southern Africa
  • program leader for a regional health authority in British Columbia
  • project leader at a community food centre in Ontario
  • staff member of a Food Policy Council in Ontario
  • city social worker dealing with poverty and food insecurity issues in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
  • food researcher for a socially responsible, private-sector food company in the GTA
  • program leader for a multi-stakeholder urban community planning initiative on hunger and food insecurity in Vancouver
  • research associate and climate change communicator for the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg
  • program leader at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank

Certificate Requirements

  • 3 required courses
  • 3 electives
  • Cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 1.67+

Admission Criteria


  • An undergraduate degree


  • 5 years of professional experience in a field relevant to food security work


  • A 3-year Baccalaureate study with a clear academic standing (at least a C average or GPA of 1.67)

Admission Interview/Placement Assessment
If you wish to apply to register for the Certificate in Food Security, you must first contact the Academic Coordinator, Reg Noble, who will assess whether you are eligible and answer any questions you might have about the program. If you’re interested in taking individual courses, Ryerson University’s general eligibility rules apply.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning offers a valuable opportunity to apply the concepts and knowledge gained through your studies in a professional workplace environment. The experiential component of this certificate provides students with the opportunity to conduct a research study for a degree credit. We are collaborating with non-government and private-sector organizations who can provide research opportunities regarding issues related either directly or indirectly to food security. This course enables students to acquire practical research experience and begin building professional networks.

CFNY 400 - Selected Topics in Food Security

For more information on experiential learning opportunities in Community Services at The Chang School, contact Farheen Hasan, Experiential Learning Coordinator, at farheen.hasan@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 7491.

Awards and Financial Aid


Frequently Asked Questions

What is food security?

Food security is the condition in which all people at all times can acquire safe, nutritionally adequate, and personally acceptable foods in a manner that maintains human dignity.

How many courses do I need to complete the certificate?

You must complete three required courses plus three electives, for a total of six courses.

Are all the courses offered online?

The program’s three core courses are all offered online. Most of the electives are also offered online, meaning you can complete the entire program online from anywhere in the world!

How long are the courses?

Each course is organized in 12 modules covering 12 weeks, plus a partial 13th week to finish exams.

Can I count Certificate in Food Security courses towards my graduate studies program?

Because each graduate faculty sets its own rules, we can’t guarantee it. In our experience, though, many faculties are willing to count one or more of our certificate courses towards graduate students’ programs.

Please check with your graduate studies coordinator to learn about the rules governing your situation.

How do online courses work?

Our online courses use a learning program called D2L Brightspace. When you register for a course, you’ll receive information on how to access your course site. Each week, course content is posted to the site, along with required readings and exercises. We also include discussion questions to which all learners are expected to respond – this happens online through a dedicated “Discussion Area” on the site. You’ll also submit your assignments using D2L Brightspace.

I don’t live in Toronto. How will I write my final exams?

Most Certificate in Food Security courses have take-home or online examinations. For some courses, it might be necessary for us to set up a place for you to write your examinations near where you live.

Can I take courses while working full-time?

Yes. Our courses are designed to accommodate busy people. But how well you do will depend on your ability to juggle your work and learning (and any other commitments you might have).

As long as you can keep up with the weekly readings, assignments, and discussions, you should be fine. If you are working full-time, we do not recommend taking more than one course.

What is the maximum number of courses I can take per session?

You can take a maximum of three courses, but most students take one course, or two at the most. It depends on your circumstances. Working online takes more time than most people think, so think carefully before taking more than one course per term.

How much time are you expected to spend on course work each week?

Students are expected to devote three to four hours per week to a course, and sometimes more, when doing assignments and research work.

How long does it take to complete the certificate program?

On average, students complete the program in 18 months to two years.

Can I complete the Certificate in Food Security by attending on-campus courses?

No. None of the three required core courses are offered on campus; you must do them online.

However, if you are registered in a degree program in the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, you can use three designated courses from the nutrition degree program as electives for the certificate. The other three courses must be from the online certificate program.

How are courses graded?

For all food security courses, there are written assignments (usually two to three), and, in some courses, there is a take-home exam where you have several days to complete it. One written assignment is usually a major research paper. For all courses, there is a participation grade covering class discussions and group work which accounts for 20 percent of the total grade.

Am I expected to do all my work in front of my computer?

No. For some courses, you are expected to do research studies in your community and collect your own data on food security; then you will present a research paper on your fieldwork. Also, some group work requires you to go out into their community to collect information about food issues and share it with your group, so an agreed-upon summary of your group’s findings can be presented to the whole class.


Catherine Robar“When I first read about food security, I had a light bulb moment and realized, ‘this is my calling,’ so I enrolled in the Certificate in Food Security at Ryerson. Previously, in 2008, I travelled to South Africa to volunteer my time in a food-insecure community. In Thembalethu, I forged a partnership with a local man, Gcinisizwe Noyakaza, to improve food security, housing, agriculture, and access to education, and to plant fruit trees to improve access to nutritious food. In the same year, I founded an organization, The Themba Development Project Association (a Canadian registered charity), which benefits from both the practical, hands-on techniques and theory I learned at The Chang School.”

Catherine Robar
Graduate, Certificate in Food Security
Winner, Ryerson Gold Medal 
Founding Director, The Themba Development Project Association

“Coming from a background in agronomy and currently working for a non-governmental organization in Austria, I joined the program to pursue a career specialization in food security. Studying at The Chang School was a highly rewarding experience, and I enjoyed learning from an excellent academic body and peers with different backgrounds and experiences. The online modules cover a wide range of topics related to development, policies, economics, agriculture, and the environment, and they have enabled me to acquire a strong set of skills and knowledge about current food security issues. This program has helped me to gain a wider understanding of practical applications of concepts and policies to promote food security and community development. Also, it has helped me to engage more confidently in debates over hunger and malnutrition. The flexibility of the online courses allowed me to study during my travels to Africa and Asia. I strongly recommend this program to others with an interest in food security and development work.”

Thomas Preindl
Graduate, Certificate in Food Security
Humanitarian Response Officer, CARITAS

Related Programs

Urban Agriculture Certificate

Gain in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of urban agriculture as well as the policy dimensions and governance issues that must be taken into account in the development of effective urban agriculture systems.

Urban agriculture is increasingly recognized for its potential contribution to urban poverty alleviation, urban food security, productive reuse of urban wastes, urban greening, local economic development, community development, and more.

Course Delivery Schedule

The following table can help you plan your enrolments. Please note that this schedule is subject to change classes depend on sufficient enrolment to run when scheduled.

O = Online

Required Courses Fall Winter Spring/Summer

CFNP 250 - Markets, Food Systems/Food Policy

CFNY 403 - Food Security Concepts and Principles O O O
CFNY 404 - Food Policy and Programs for Food Security     O
CFNY 405 - Applied Research Methods and Evaluation O    
Elective Courses Fall Winter Spring/Summer
CFND 401 - Social and Cultural Dimensions of Food      
CFNF 100 - Families and Health      
CFNN 100 - Nutrition and Health      
CFNN 111 - Introduction to Nutrition     O
CFNY 400 - Selected Topics in Food Security O   O
CFNY 407 - Community Development and Food Security     O
CFNY 408 - Urban Food Security   O  
CFNY 409 - Gender and Food Security O    
CFNY 510 - Indigenous Food Systems in Canada   O  
CINT 912 - Community Development: International Field Experience      
CSOC 808 - Sociology of Food and Eating O O O
CVFN 410 - Understanding Urban Agriculture      
CVFN 411 - Dimensions of Urban Agriculture O    
CVFN 412 - Urban Agriculture Types   O O
CVFN 413 - Urban Agriculture Policy-Making      
CVFS 401 - Contemporary Family Issues O   O

Contact Us

Questions? Contact Reg Noble, Academic Coordinator.

Email:  food@ryerson.ca

Additional Details