Despite strong economic growth, Halifax is one of the most food-insecure cities in Canada, with 1 in 6 households not having access to nutritious, affordable food. The strength of the local food system is directly linked to quality of life, the vibrancy of communities, and the sustainability of urban and rural landscapes.

Mayor Mike Savage says that no matter where you live in this municipality, or how much you have, healthy and affordable food should never be out of reach.

"Together, I know that bright minds galvanized with purpose can help solve food security issues in the Halifax region.”

That’s why the Halifax Innovation District and Davis Pier Consulting launched the Food Security Innovation Initiative in partnership with the Halifax Regional Municipality to help individuals and community organizations prototype, test, and apply new thinking and solutions to food insecurity.

Wendy Luther, President and CEO of Halifax Partnership, says the invitation to communities was broad and the response from local organizations, residents, farmers markets, schools, public sector employees, food banks, and student groups was inspiring.

"Everyone has a role to play in shaping the future of food, and the energy and knowledge to improve food security lie within our communities."

More than 50 submissions were received from organizations and individuals, all focused on increasing access to healthy food as a way to improve well-being and resilience and create lasting change in Halifax’s food system.

Ideas were selected based on their potential impact, established connections, and the participation of underrepresented groups in developing solutions for their communities.

Four organizations participated in the pilot project from January-April 2021. A team at Davis Pier worked with the organizations to apply the same design and prototyping skills pioneered in the private sector to develop proofs-of-concept and early-stage idea generation.

  1. Mealful: Mealful is a start-up business focused on providing affordable meal services to students while creating business opportunities for restaurants. Participating in this initiative has provided Mealful with the resources and additional skills to test a prototype of their service, develop their business operations, and learn about students’ food security challenges.
  2. Akoma: Community gardens play an important role in connecting food security, history, culture, self-sufficiency, and active living for Black communities in the Preston Area. The Food Security Innovation team supported Akoma in planning and facilitating a discussion with nine community initiatives working towards similar goals and forming a network to continue partnerships and collaboration.
  3. Hope Blooms: Hope Blooms has a vision of transforming their produce box program into a vibrant, empowering, and equitable community food program.  The Food Security Innovation team worked with Hope Blooms to develop a prototype for a digital currency and payment system that will enable participants in their community food program to shop and pay in a way that provides more choice and independence.
  4. Mobile Food Market & Partners: JustFOOD, Mobile Food Market, Farmers Markets NS, and Nourish NS have come together to develop a draft concept of a Local Food Hub to share with potential stakeholders to bring diverse interests to the tables, continue the conversation, and plan for next steps. The goal of the Local Food Hub is to strengthen our food system through purchasing, storing, and distributing local food to regional organizations, public institutions (such as schools), restaurants, and other food providers.  The Food Security Innovation team supported the partners in creating a shared vision, goals, and concept for further development.

Mike Davis, CEO of Davis Pier, says that collaborating with community across sectors, and with different levels of government is key to implementing a new path forward. 

"We’ve seen that complex social issues can’t be solved using the traditional ways of working. This approach, centred on social innovation, allowed us to help these partners collaborate, prototype, and experiment in order to figure out a path forward.”

With a developed concept or prototype in hand, the organizations are now better positioned to build partnerships, seek and secure funding, and keep the momentum going in developing their ideas, projects, and products.

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