Driving truly collaborative solutions to food insecurity

Doug MacMillan
Doug MacMillan • 2 February 2022

This year, 10C Executive Director Julia Grady, as co-chair of the Business and Collaborations Workstream, and Toward Common Ground Lead, Sarah Haanstra, as the chair of the Nutritious Food Workstream, helped facilitate a highly collaborative exercise to allocate $100,000 through Our Food Future’s Harvest Fund. From April to August, the CoLab Action and Funding Process gathered a group of community members and organizational leaders to co-create solutions to help address food insecurity.

Rather than applying for a particular amount of funding, as they would in a standard granting competition, groups brought ideas forward to indicate their intention to participate in the Co-Lab process. And because they didn’t need to be incorporated to get involved, it opened the door to a wider range of participants.

Seven innovative solutions emerged — ranging from expanding community markets that sell fresh food on a sliding scale to making farmland and commercial kitchen space available to support local food initiatives. The process emphasized synergies, prioritizing ideas with strong potential for collaborative action. This process is helping to advance the following projects: 

Sustain and Grow Community Markets to meet ever-increasing demand and sustain free access to fresh produce at the North End Harvest Market and the Silvercreek Market and Advance Your Voice, a gathering of people with lived experience of poverty, to grow their leadership in community food access. 

The Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group to add an additional community-based market that sells affordable year-round fresh local food. 

The Hub and Spoke Collaborative Pilot Project to test shifting Guelph Food Bank away from direct-to-client food support and member agency excess distribution program to a model where GFB will be a distribution hub for smaller neighborhood-based food security programs.

The Anishinaabeg Ways of Living, Being and Doing project to bring together people from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and allies to learn from and with each other and share time together in Anishinaabeg Ways of Living, Being and Doing. This Indigenous-led initiative weaves through every Co-Lab challenge project, informing and supporting all the others.  

The HOPE House – Holding Spaces and Place project to offer arable land, space and food infrastructure (e.g., kitchen space) to support other project ideas to emerge. This project chose not to receive funding, but rather offered gifts to be shared across the other projects.

The Cultural Meals Social Enterprise project to create opportunities for immigrant women to make meal kits and cook meals from different cultures to be made available for sale. 

Parkwood Gardens Curated Meals project to engage in a partnership with HOPE House to produce weekly ready-made free meals for families.

The applicants began by co-creating a set of shared principles to guide their interactions and decision-making. Next came a participatory fund allocation process to decide how best to share the funds between the projects, based on their collective impact toward the shared objective of tackling food insecurity. The Co-Lab process was one of the ways that these groups were able to lead with empathy, share knowledge and work together to tackle problems facing our communities.