This slogan came out of the closing strategic session at last week’s Food Secure Canada assembly: Waves of Change, Sustainable Food for All.  This year, the gathering of 450 sustainable food supporters was held in Halifax. Devouring plenty of Off the Hook seafood didn’t stop us from being quite productive. We spent 4 days hearing about best practices, tweeting inspiring quotes (#foodwaves), sharing ideas on the podium and at the table, and building new paths of connection. Topics ranged from urban farming, food programs and policy, sustainable agriculture and fishery, first nations food security, food research, government initiatives and many more…Institutional food procurement was a popular topic, and I’m thrilled to share some highlights with you.

FSC Assembly
Opening ceremony with Vandana Shiva

On the farm side, I was quite excited to hear about 4 food hub pilots taking root – Ottawa Food Hub, the Food Hub Project in Ontario, La Récolte de Chez Nous in New Brunswick and Food Matters Manitoba. Food hubs act as aggregators, making it easy for buyers/institutions to get local produce in one delivery. Farmers on the other side save long trips to the city and have more time to farm, instead of doing business, promotion, sales side. Some food hubs are looking at micro-processing, prolonging local food availability through canning or freezing.

Nova Scotia Food
Delicious food for a foodie crowd

On the institution side, universities are running the show. I met with folks from Meal Exchange who have done amazing work with food on Canadian campuses. Chef Joshna Maharaj told the story of revamping Ryerson University’s cafeteria with her ever burning passion. Overall, there has been a lot of talk about using the collective buying power of public institutions in coordinated asks. There was a strong will to share knowledge, results and to coordinate our actions. The group came up with a great idea … an institutional food pledge for Canada. We plan to meet again to flesh it out. We also heard the word “collective impact” (CI) popping here and there with great interest.

This collaboration framework is a new interest of mine since I attended the Tamarack Collective Impact Summit in October. Collective Impact is the new buzz world in the sphere of system change, since an article was published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011. It’s a way to collaborate across sectors – non-profit, philanthropy, government, corporations and citizens – to address social issues and system change. Collective Impact projects can involved 50 to 200 organizations and rely on five conditions:

  • a common agenda
  • shared measurement
  • mutually reinforcing activities
  • constant communication
  • the presence of a backbone support organization.

You can view the full conference content here.

I would like to close with the snapshot of the 1.5 acre urban farm and community garden located on Capital Health’s hospital grounds. Common Roots was developed with the support of the hospital and many donors. It provides free fresh produce to a neighboring food bank and a place for the community to meet and learn about urban gardening.

Common Roots: urban farm and community garden on hospital grounds

Now you might wonder what’s coming next at UHN.

Stay tuned for our announcement next week on the upcoming conversation café, where keen staff  will be able to review our hospital food ecosystem and chat with their peers.