Jennifer Clapp

There Are No Easy Answers

Working in global food security and sustainability brings big challenges, but this researcher is driven by her constant desire to learn.


Jennifer Clapp is a Professor in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability and Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. We asked her everything from what she is reading to what advice she would give to young researchers in hopes of giving you a better understanding of one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a researcher?
I am motivated to address issues of social and economic inequities in the world. I realized early in my studies that there were no easy answers to most social and economic problems, and that I needed to learn so much more if I wanted to gain a better understanding of how policy might address the issues that I am passionate about. There is still so much more I want to learn.

What do you like most about your work?
I love to learn new things that connect together different pieces of information that let me see issues in a new light.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
My field is becoming more interdisciplinary as we realize that we need a host of approaches, lenses, and tools to tackle complex problems of in our food system.

How will your research make a difference in people’s lives?
I hope my research will help people to understand more about the social and economic dynamics associated with the foods that they eat. I hope my research will help inform policy in ways that reduce inequities and environmental externalities in the global food system.

What advice would you give to young researchers?
Research what you are passionate about, and learn everything you can about that topic. Also, be aware that you won’t become an expert overnight. Take your time to learn things deeply and consider how the empirical topics you are researching relate to theoretical and conceptual ideas.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
I’m just happy to have the opportunity to share my ideas through my writing and public talks.

What do you read?
The Financial Times (every day); historical novels (when I have the time); academic books (all the time!)

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
I wish I had natural talent as a public speaker.

What’s on your iPod/CD collection/turntable?
Sufjan Stevens; the Talking Heads

If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why? 
Rachel Carson – to hear her views on the rise of industrial agriculture and its impact on the natural environment.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be? 

What do you like to do for fun?
Photography (black and white film photography); cooking; exercise – though I wish I had more time for these activities!