The Parry Sound and Area Food Labs


June 13, 2016

Report prepared by Jessica Nicksy, Studio [Y] Fellow at the MaRS Discovery District. Jessica was the lead convener of the Parry Sound and Area Food Labs. This report was prepared for the Parry Sound & Area Food Collaborative as well as any interested members of the public.



Goals of this report

About Food in the Parry Sound area

About The Parry Sound and Area Food Lab

Lab Design

Research and Preparation

Schedule: Lab Day #1, March 31

Schedule: Lab Day #2, April 21


Summary: Lab Day 1

System Mapping

Seeing the System


Participant Reflections

Summary: Lab Day 2

Working Groups

Equal Access to Healthy Food

Community Building and Education

Formal Education

Producer and Food Chain Supports

Government Advocacy

Participant Reflections

Lab Results & Feedback

Comparison of lab goals and results

Goal 1: 3-5 interventions in the Parry Sound Area food system

Goal 2: Strengthened sense of community

Goal 3: Introduce community to lab process & systems thinking

Feedback on lab process

Lab 1 Feedback

Lab 2 Feedback

Whole Lab Process



A. Lab 1 Results

A.1 Introductory Questions

A.2 Learnings from System Mapping

A.3 Seeing the System Activity Results

A.4 Brainstormed Ideas (sorted by category)

A.5 Participant Reflections

B. Lab 2 Results

B.1 Final Reflections

C. Lab Handouts/Templates

C.1 System Mapping Template

C.2 Seeing the System Handouts

C.3 DFVI Handout

C.4 Theory of Change Template

D. Lab Results: Online Survey


Goals of this report

This report has two main goals:

  1. Convey the stories, learnings, and impact of the food labs to people who were not there.
  2. Convey the structure and design of the lab such that others can learn from and use parts of the process. There will also be reflection on the ways in which the lab process could be improved in the future.

About Food in the Parry Sound area

The Parry Sound area is a region in near-northern Ontario to the east of Georgian Bay. It lies on the traditional territory of the Anishinabe people[1]. Agriculture played an important role to early European settlers in supporting the predominant logging industry, though the soil is typically difficult to work compared to soils in southern Ontario[2].

A 2010 report from the District Health Unit states that in Parry Sound, food is shipped in from elsewhere[3]. It also notes that food support programs (community gardens, co-ops) are insufficient and food-related skills (gardening, cooking, preserving) are depleted. Both land area under cultivation, and the number of people employed in the agricultural sector have showed decreasing trends in Parry Sound district[4].

Simultaneously, Parry Sound faces greater poverty than other districts in Ontario. The median employment income of those living in the Parry Sound area is almost $9,000 lower than the provincial average, and most jobs are part-time or seasonal, making it hard for families to make ends meet, let alone access healthy food year round. As food is inextricably related to health, the inaccessibility of good food can be related to increases in high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity documented in the Parry Sound area[5].

Recent years have seen an emerging trend in the Parry Sound area towards a more secure, equitable, and sustainable food system. This trend is characterized by interventions such as community kitchens programs, the Grown By the Bay local farm inventory, the proliferation of community gardens, and the creation of the Parry Sound and Area Food Charter. There is a small but vibrant community of farmers and producers in the region, and a wealth of knowledge stored in the older and indigenous populations.

Predominant concerns among community members in the Parry Sound Area include the difficulty of accessing healthy food, declining agriculture and the lack of local food available, regulatory barriers inhibiting small producers and processors, and declining food skills[6].

About The Parry Sound and Area Food Lab

The Parry Sound and Area Food Lab was developed by Jessica Nicksy of Studio [Y] at the MaRS Discovery District, in partnership with the Parry Sound and Area Food Collaborative. The lab spanned two separate days, March 31 (Lab #1) and April 21 (Lab #2), 2016. Facilitation during the lab days was provided by Jessica Nicksy and five other Studio [Y] fellows: Arij Elmi (Lab #2), Ian Pinnel (Lab #1 & 2), Naima Raza (Lab #2), Rebecca Tan (Lab #2), and Stephen Clare (Lab #1).

The lab design was adapted from the design laid out in The Social Innovation Lab Guide, published by the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISER)[7]. The design was also informed by The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan of Reos Partners[8]. Input was also received from Solutions Lab at the MaRS Discovery District and the Toronto Food Policy Council.

A lab is “a process, one that is intended to support multi-stakeholder groups in addressing a complex social problem”[9]. Complex problems are those which are emergent rather than predictable, in which new information is constantly being generated as a result of this emergence, and which adapt to changes made by actors in the system and external forces. Complex problems cannot be solved by a single actor or solution. Core characteristics of social labs include:

  1. Drawing participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, sectors, and experiences
  2. Experimenting with ideas through early prototyping, and being prepared to adapt and change ideas (falling in love with the problem rather than your solution)
  3. Developing deep understanding of the problem and ideas that address problems at their root cause [10]

Both texts describe lab processes that occur over a longer time span, have access to greater resources, and have a larger geographical scale. The Parry Sound & Area Food Lab was designed as a pared down version of these processes. It was designed to maintain the core principles of social labs while requiring less time from participants and fewer resources to put together.

The first lab focussed on developing deep and empathetic understanding of the complexities and connections of the food system in the Parry Sound area. We also began to develop a range of ideas for intervention in the system and categorize them according to the area of intervention. The categories were condensed and modified slightly into the 5 working groups that we formed during the second lab day (Formal Education, Community Building & Education, Equal Access, Government Advocacy, Producer and Food Chain Supports).

The second day was a deep dive into choosing and testing several ideas in each working group, and developing an action plan for the implementation of at least one. Participants were challenged to evaluate the desirability, feasibility, viability, and impact of their ideas early on, weeding out interventions that seemed good but were missing one or more of those key elements. A theory of change was developed around the ideas, mapping the desired impact in the short, medium, and long terms. Finally, action plans were mapped out and missing resources were identified for implementation of each idea.

The total impact of the labs remains to be seen, but it is already clear that participants feel a stronger sense of community around food in the Parry Sound area, and are eager to create change.

Lab Design

Research and Preparation

Prior to the lab a series of interviews were conducted with actors across the food system. The interviews were coded for themes and combined with additional research to create the “Parry Sound & Area Food” infographic[11], a representation of the food system as seen by the Parry Sound & area community. The infographic was prepared as a resource for food lab participants. Though a great effort was made to have a diverse group in the room, inevitably there would be voices and perspectives that could not be there. The infographic was intended to bring some of those viewpoints into the room, and to encourage people to see the food system through a variety of lenses. The infographic and the Parry Sound and Area Food Charter were disseminated amongst lab participants prior to the lab days so that they could familiarize themselves more thoroughly with the issues.

Schedule: Lab Day #1, March 31

Lab attendees were divided in advance into 5 colour-coded groups. This was done to ensure that each table had voices from different parts of the food system. Each group sat at one of 5 round tables which were dispersed around the room, with 5-6 participants at each. On each table there were copies of the food charter and the infographic.

Flexibility was required in terms of table assignment as some participants who had RSVPed did not attend, and some who had not RSVPed did attend.




Materials Required




Introduction of facilitators, explanation of day’s structure and goals, community guidelines.

Introductory activity:

Each person writes on a recipe card which food they would be if they could be any food, and which food issue is most important to them

-Make sure everyone knows what’s going on.

-Identify key issues within food system.

-Get people talking to those outside their immediate networks.

Colour coded tables with 5-6 people at each. Colour coded name tags.

Laid out on each table:

- copies of the food charter

- copies of the food system infographic

- copies of the agenda

- recipe cards

- notebooks & pens for participants to take their own notes



System Mapping: 

Using a template with colour coding for types of actors and types of connections, have each group work on a system map on a section of the wall.

-Start thinking in systems

-Identify nodes of connections, bottlenecks, trends

- Begin to think about points of intervention in the system

- colour coded templates (see Appendix C.1 for template)

- sticky notes

- markers



Mental relief after intense system mapping activity

Provide snacks



Seeing the system: 

Part 1- Each group develops 1-2 sentences characterising dominant system & 1-2 sentences characterising ideal system using “sentence stems” and sticky notes.

Part 2- Identify 5-7 variables that control outcomes in the system

-Narrow mass of information in food system map into an understandable statement representing “the crux of the matter”.

-Define vision of ideal system.

-Begin to see where we could “turn the dial” to impact the system

-“Sentence Stem” templates. See Appendix C.2 for examples

- sticky notes

- markers


Lunch: Catered by the Parry Sound High School’s hospitality program using as many local ingredients as possible.

Catering reflects the values of the food charter by using local ingredients and supporting food education program at PSHS



Come up with ideas for how to shift the system, and sort them by type and area of intervention according to the 5-7 variables identified in the previous exercise

-Identify the opportunities for movement

-Build excitement & energy

-sticky notes




Thank everyone, explain what will happen next time, what will be sent out over the break between labs, and invite to stay for tea and coffee if desired

Reflection activity: 

Each person writes on a large sticky a) something they learned, and b) an action they want to take

As participants leave they are asked to note their feedback on a piece of chart paper.

Adjourn the day on a high note. Invite participants to begin reflecting on the day and how it will impact what they do going forward.

- large stickies

- feedback form on large piece of chart paper, see “Lab 1 Feedback” on page 19 for example

Schedule: Lab Day #2, April 21

During the second lab day participants chose one of 5 working groups to participate in: Formal Education, Community Building & Education, Equal Access to Healthy Food, Producer & Food Chain Supports, and Government Advocacy. Participants were allowed and encouraged to change working groups throughout the day if they felt they could best contribute in another group. Each of 5 round tables had handouts with descriptions and examples for one working group.







Working Group Cafe:

Each working group has materials on one table (description, example brainstormed ideas, examples of interventions from Parry Sound and other regions).

No “official” facilitation. As people filter in they’ll be greeted and directed to wander around looking at the tables.

Get people acquainted with the working groups, thinking about choosing one

On each table:

- Working group name

- description of working group

-brainstormed examples & real life examples




Ask people to select a working group and sit there. Can split or remove groups here if necessary.

Introduction to day- schedule, goals, community guidelines, law of two feet

Group introductions- What each person wants out of the day, what they are able to commit. Can reshuffle groups at this point if it seems like one working group has two factions, etc.

People choose what topic they want to work on. Become acquainted with structure and goals of the day. Become acquainted with the other members of their working group.

Goals of the day and agenda written on chart paper



Re-brainstorming & sorting ideas

5min- solo brainstorming

10min- Each person chooses 2 ideas to present to the group. Group can decide to also consider example ideas on the table. Very similar ideas can be clumped.

5min- DFVI (desirability, feasibility, viability, impact) is explained[12]

10min- group uses dots colour-coded for DFVI to choose which ideas they prefer. 1-3 ideas are selected based on this for further evaluation. Other ideas can be parking lotted (eg. high impact but low feasibility ideas)

Participants think strategically about which ideas will be most likely to succeed based on DFVI criteria. Using a democratic process (dotmocracy) to select ideas helps participants feel that their input is important.

- Sticky notes

- Colour coded dots

- DFVI handouts, see Appendix C.3 for handout


Deeper DFVI for 1-3 ideas

Run through each chosen idea for desirability, feasibility, viability, and potential impact.  Encourage realism- do we have the resources to achieve this? If we are missing some of the resources how might we get them?

Group votes on which 1 idea to continue work on and prepares to share with the larger group.

Participants dive deeper into determining which ideas are actually desirable, feasible, viable, and impactful.

- DFVI handouts (from previous activity)




Group Sharing

Each group has 3-5min to share their idea to the whole group. People are allowed and encouraged to switch groups if there is an idea that appeals to them more that the one they are currently working on (and no shaming/bullying if they do switch).

Give participants opportunity to hear what other groups are doing and switch groups if they want


Theory of change & backcasting 

Participants develop a “theory of change” for their idea, defining the impact the intervention will have in the short, medium, and long term. Groups then work backwards from that impact to determine the steps required to make their intervention happen.

Think deeply about the impact that the intervention will have and what needs to happen to get there.

Theory of change template, see Appendix C.4



Catered by the Parry Sound High School’s hospitality program.

Dan DiNicolo of Made in Parry Sound is guest speaker.

Catering reflects the values of the food charter by using local ingredients and supporting food education program at PSHS


Action planning 

Groups map out steps to carry out their intervention, begin committing to steps, prepare their pitch

Agree on what the immediate next steps are. Determine who will be doing what. Determine what the gaps in resources are. Prepare to pitch “actions & asks” to the broader group

Can use an action planning template


Pitches to whole group (4min pitch, 5min feedback) Groups pitch idea and request help with resources they lack (eg. contacts or recommendations for where to find funding/partnerships)

Strengthen plans and agreements to move projects forward



Thank all for coming, explain what follow-up will be (feedback survey).

Reflection activity: participants write one learning and one action on a large sticky note.

Encourage sharing of contact info

Large sticky notes


What comes after the lab is almost as important as the lab itself. Most projects need continued support and encouragement if they are to be realized. The Food Collaborative was able to offer administrative support to working groups. It remains to be seen exactly what will come of the interventions developed in each group.

Follow-up is also important in terms of evaluating the food lab process itself, and determining how it could be improved. An anonymous survey was sent to to lab participants to gather insight into how they experienced the lab, what they will take away from it, and what they hope to achieve in the future.

Finally, participants were encouraged to sign up for the Food Collaborative mailing list to stay up to date with the Food Collaborative.

Summary: Lab Day 1

23 participants from across the food system came together to cultivate a deeper understanding of food in the Parry Sound area, and generate ideas for how to shift the system.

More detailed results can be found in Appendix A.

System Mapping

Participants mapped themselves and other actors in the system, looking for patterns and points of influence. A few of the insights include:

Seeing the System

Participants described the “dominant/ prevalent/ convenient” food system and the “ideal” food system, and identified areas that will help shift the system towards the ideal.

Dominant/ Prevalent/ Convenient



Participants generated ideas for intervention in the food system, informed by the findings of the previous exercises. A few examples include:

Participant Reflections

Participants were asked to reflect upon and share their learnings and the actions they want to take. A few samples are shown below:

A full listing of reflections can be found in Appendix A.5.

Summary: Lab Day 2

Working Groups

Equal Access to Healthy Food

The equal access working group developed ideas promote healthy eating, especially for vulnerable or low income people in the area. The main ideas considered were:

1. Public landscaping incorporating edible plants & food producing trees instead of only flowers

2. Shifting emergency food programs to distribute healthier/fresher foods (typically food banks have a large amount of processed food)

3. Develop a community food hub based on the model of “The Stop Community Food Centre” in Toronto

The group was excited about all three ideas, but chose to focus on the development of the  food hub. This was due in part to the huge potential impact of the idea, as well as the fact that there are a number of existing efforts in the community that could contribute to the food hub. The William Beatty school is in the process of converting to a community centre and community housing, the St. James United Church is developing itself into a “Centre for Community”, and the Salvation Army is already working to incorporate the Stop’s model. Collaboration and coordination between some or all of these groups, facilitated by the equal access working group, has the potential for considerable impact.

In fact, an informal group representing these and other food access organizations had formed within the last year to discuss better coordination of resources and programs. After the lab it was decided that this group would be combined with the equal access working group as the “Food Access Working Group” as part of the Food Collaborative. This group will promote the development of the community food hub, as well as generally supporting and coordinating equal access efforts in the Parry Sound area.

Community Building and Education

The community building and education table focused on ways in which food can bring people together to build community and support healthy lifestyles. The three main ideas considered were:

1. Educational programs for youth (formal schooling)

2. Educational programs for families (informal education)

3. Media campaign raising awareness of food issues and food programs

The group chose to focus on the media campaign because they felt as though there are many educational programs out there and that these programs are already well designed, but not attracting enough of an audience. Thus, greater awareness of the programs was needed, a need which could be met with a media campaign.

The group considered a range of media, including a magazine spread and social media, as well as a range of content. In addition, they recognized that there is a huge range of content which could potentially be covered, and determined that further consultation with the wider food community would be required in order to determine what should be highlighted in a media campaign.

Finally, the group recognized its own lack of resources for creating the campaign. The coordination and work required to develop that campaign would require more time than anyone was able to offer given busy work and personal commitments. The group discussed possibilities for funding and grants that could support this work.

In the lab follow up survey respondents were asked what they would like to see in a media campaign around food in the Parry Sound area. Some of the responses included :

Full responses can be found in Appendix D.

Formal Education

The formal education group focused on ideas related to the Specialist High Skills Major in Hospitality and Tourism offered at Parry Sound High School. Two students from the program were part of the working group and were able to provide invaluable insight in shaping the direction of the working group and the ideas that were developed.

1. Food skills workshops in high school Food Class to cook meals with 5 ingredients or less using only local ingredients

2. Partnerships between school and local food growers to bring local foods to the cafeteria

Both ideas were considered using the DFVI evaluation matrix and the first was chosen. This decision was based on the capacity of the people in the working group and the potential impact of each idea.

The students were tasked with advocating for the idea with the teacher who runs the Food Class. A trained chef in the working group, as well as some other lab participants expressed interest in teaching the workshop.

One particular insight in the discussion was the need to focus on local as opposed to just healthy or organic. The group argued that the Foods class already provides some experiential opportunities, and that in high school there is a focus on healthy food, but we must work harder to specifically show the importance of local food, buying local and supporting the community. It was also clear from discussion with the larger lab group that there are many individuals in the local food sector in Parry Sound who would love to teach and share what they do with the high schoolers.

Producer and Food Chain Supports

The producer and food chain supports group focussed on ways in which the local food economy could be supported to grow and flourish. The main ideas considered were:

1. Start a local farm and food collective

2. Create an online catalogue of farms and shops selling local produce in the area

3. Ignite a local food cooperative to connect producers and consumers

Another interesting idea was mapping farmland that was available for rent/trade, given the abundance of fallow fields in the area.

The group discussed how the three main ideas were in fact very interconnected; a farm collective could have farm mapping as its pilot project, and could eventually grow into a local food cooperative with retail and warehouse space. The group also discovered that the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve has an online google map with local farmers and food businesses, but were interested in the idea of building on and improving the tool.

In the end, the group determined that beginning with the formation of a local farm and food collective would be logical first step towards the revitalization of our local food economy. The working group thought that the Food Collaborative itself, as an established group, could play this role. Thus the working group determined to encourage and engage with the food collaborative in order to ensure a focus on producer and food chain supports by the Food Collaborative.

Government Advocacy

The government advocacy group looked at different ideas related to public policy. The main ideas evaluated included:

1. Removing regulation disallowing backyard laying hens in Parry Sound

2. Reduce restrictions around community gardens

3. Change zoning to allow more agriculture and mixed use (eg. urban agriculture, front yard veggie gardens)

Upon discussion and input from a town employee who was part of the working group, it became clear that perceptions about regulations were not necessarily accurate. For example, some of the perceived restrictions on things like front yard vegetable gardens did not exist. The group chose to focus on the restriction which they were sure about, which related to having laying hens within the Town of Parry Sound limits. The group laid out a road map for public engagement and advocacy required to change the bylaw during the upcoming bylaw review. This action plan is being studied and may be implemented by the Food Collaborative.

Perhaps the greatest learning to come from the government advocacy working group is the realization that no one is really sure what all the regulations and bylaws are in each area concerning food production and distribution. There was agreement that a review of the relevant legislation would be extremely helpful in order to understand what is causing issues and where there might be opportunities for local governments to create supportive legislation.

Participant Reflections

Participants were again asked to reflect upon and share their learnings and the actions they want to take. In general, the responses were more specific and action oriented than in the first lab. A few samples are shown below:

A full listing of responses can be found in Appendix B.1.

Lab Results & Feedback

Comparison of lab goals and results

This section compares the goals laid out for the food labs with the results insofar as they can be evaluated at the point of publication (May 2016).

Goal 1: 3-5 interventions in the Parry Sound Area food system

This goal is difficult to evaluate in the short term, as it remains to be seen which interventions will move forward. While limited resources constrain what can be done in reality compared to the visions laid out by working groups, it seems that there is some action resulting from each working group to one extent or another.

The Parry Sound & Area Food Collaborative has taken the equal access working group on as a sub-committee under the name “Food Access Working Group” and will be working on bringing the different food access organizations together to form the food hub. The Food Collaborative is also working on pursuing by-law amendments to allow laying hens in the town of Parry Sound, which is the project laid out by the “Government Advocacy Working Group”. The collaborative is optimistic that “Formal Education Working Group” will be successful in its plan to implement local food workshops in the high school cooking class. Lack of resources limits the implementation of a media campaign envisioned by the “Community Building and Engagement Working Group”, but the responses gathered relating to what community members would want from a media campaign may be very useful in the future as resources become available. Finally, the Food Collaborative is in the process of revamping its website, the new version of which will hopefully showcase the map of local farms and food businesses in Parry Sound, which is aligned with the work discussed by the “Producer and Food Chain Supports” working group.

One optimistic indicator is that when participants were asked anonymously in the lab follow-up survey (see Appendix D) whether they would continue work with their working group, 62.5% indicated “Yes”, and 37.5% indicated “It Depends”. Explanations of the “It Depends” response included:

The response to this question indicates that food lab participants plan to work to turn their ideas, in whole or part, into reality.

Goal 2: Strengthened sense of community

A consistent theme throughout the lab, in discussion as well as through written and online feedback, was that people were thrilled to meet and interact with others in the community who also cared about food. Quotes from the reflection exercises on the lab days which reflect this sense of community include:

The follow-up survey online confirmed that the group felt a strengthened sense of community around food in the Parry Sound Area. As shown below, participants most often felt a stronger or much stronger sense of community as a result of the lab, with just two respondents registering no change in their sense of community, and none registering a decreased sense of community.

Full results of the follow-up survey can be found in Appendix XX.

Based on these results it seems that the labs were quite successful in increasing the sense of community around food in Parry Sound, and facilitating connections between like-minded individuals.

Goal 3: Introduce community to lab process & systems thinking

One of the goals of the lab was simply to introduce the process and this type of thinking to the community, for potential future use on food systems or other social issues. The online follow-up survey asked participants whether they would replicate all or part of the process themselves, as shown below. While half of respondents said that they would not have any occasion to replicate the process, the other half reported that they were interested in replicating all or part of the process.

Lab participants were very responsive to the process, and the survey response confirms that they found it useful. In particular, many participants praised the DFVI and dot-mocracy activities as helpful decision-making tools. It seems likely that at least some components of the lab process will be replicated in the Parry Sound Area.

Feedback on lab process

Different mechanisms were used to collect feedback on the lab process itself. During the first lab, participants were asked to provide feedback as they left the lab on a flipchart set up by the door. This allowed us to collect process feedback from all, or almost all participants, but didn’t provide an avenue for more detailed feedback. This method was not used during the second lab, with an online follow-up survey being used instead. While this allowed respondents to provide long form comments, only 9 of 23 lab participants actually filled it out. In the future, a combination of the methods should be used, perhaps by asking participants to provide long form comments on the day of the lab using recipe cards.

The online follow-up survey also asked participants overall questions about both labs, and how they see themselves interacting with their working group in the future.

Detailed feedback can be found in Appendix D.

Lab 1 Feedback

Feedback on the first lab process was collected on a flipchart as shown below.


Reactions to the day were generally positive, with participants especially enjoying the brainstorming activity and the quality of the facilitation. Participants liked the system mapping activity a little less by comparison, which is not surprising given the fact that it is a new and somewhat uncomfortable way of thinking for most people. Happily, participants reported that they found the day useful for their work, which is extremely important given that the labs demanded almost full days from participants.

It should be noted that this feedback was given in a very public manner, and that participants may therefore have been inclined to be kinder than they would have had the feedback been entirely anonymous.

Lab 2 Feedback

Questions similar to those asked after the first lab were asked of participants via an online survey after the second lab. Participants were asked to rank each workshop component on a 5 point scale, with “1” indicating that the component was not at all useful/insightful and “5” indicating that it was very useful/ insightful. Full results are available in Appendix XX. A summary of the results is shown below:


Average Rating

How useful/ insightful was the DFVI (desirability, feasibility, viability, impact) activity?


How useful/ insightful was the Theory of  Change activity (impact in short, medium, and long term)?


How useful/ insightful was action planning?


Overall, how did you find the quality of the facilitation for lab day 2?


Once again, participants were very positive about the lab experience. It was clear that the Theory of Change component of the day was less popular than the other activities, but it is not clear why that was. Perhaps the activity required better explanation, or perhaps the groups simply did not find it as useful as the other components of the day.

Whole Lab Process

Participants were also asked what they liked and what they would change about the lab process overall. Full responses can be found in Appendix D, but a sampling is shown below:

Participants provided generally positive feedback, along with some helpful suggestions for improvement. This will be very useful in helping the food collaborative to plan engaging and successful events in the future.


The Parry Sound & Area Food Labs provided a venue for passionate community members to come together around food issues in the community, take a critical look at the system, envision a brighter future, and plan tangible actions to move the community toward that future.

The ideas and energy that came out of the lab will be carried forward by lab participants and the Food Collaborative, with the aim of fostering of a more sustainable, vibrant, and equitable local food system.


A. Lab 1 Results

                A.1 Introductory Questions

What food would you be and why?

What food issue is most important to you ?

fresh tomato

The production of local food and its implication as a farmer & the community

peach- makes me think of summer, luscious, healthy

Access to healthy/nutritious/affordable

parsley- short, crisp, green

Feeding the hungry with healthy food and how to access it at a reasonable price

Garlic- tastes good, healer, protective

Food quality as it relates to health and food security for Canadians

salad- any

Lack of access to fresh produce for marginalized people

watermelon- juicy and cool

Everyone should have a garden- they supply food at a low price all year

apple- naturally sweet

Solutions to educating and ensuring individuals who are considered low income have the ability to access healthy and nutritional foods

pear- because they're delicious and pear blossoms are beautiful

Decline in food skills & food literacy (& in turn health)

sweet crunchy apple

I would like to be more involved with my community with regards to food

                A.2 Learnings from System Mapping

Key learnings from system mapping

Nutrition education starts at elementary level (school gardens, community gardens)

Lack of local food availability to consumers

Lack of connection between local food producers and retail opportunity or distribution

Non-profit sector is instrumental in delivering food access and literacy projects

Lack of knowledge/ skills round food growing and cooking

Kay hubs: grocery stores & farms

partnerships: mostly between programs and public sector (ooportunity for more)

Lack of connection between community and schools/ church

# of connections between producer and communtiy

need for municipal/ governmental support and involvement

Public sector are indirect players in food system, the general public is direct

Lack of connections between food actors and in the mind of consumers

Empty land not in production

                A.3 Seeing the System Activity Results

Descriptions: Convenient/Prevailing/Dominant System

Food is imported into the area and not sustainable, promotes food of low nutritional value, which leads to consumption of unhealthy processed/ convenience foods

We are dependant on the global food system. Challenges include consumer education, strong marketing, finances, and expectations

Largely controlled by large grocery stores. Challenges include imported food, lack of food education, and regulatory barriers (provincial and federal)

The dominant food system in our region is predominantly corporately controlled. We have a strong reliance on imported food and limited access to locally grown or produced food. The challenges in our area include: lack of farms/ farmers, consumer lack of knowledge (apathy), policy challenges for local producers/ procurement, & an influx of outside population in growing season

Descriptions: Ideal system

An ideal system would be sustained by local grown and produced food which provides a healthy strong community (healthy economy and healthy environment)

Ideal food system is one that is local first, provincial second, national third and is economically viable for farmers and consumers

Local food, accessible and healthy, food "hub". Benefits include health, strength economy, social inclusion, community building, and education

We ideally want our food to come from our backyards our local Parry Sound area, and Ontario. We want food to connect us, to bring people of all ages together, to build our community economically, socially, physically, and spiritually.

Key areas for intervention

Formal education

Government incentives and policy/ regulation

Leading by example/ individual change

Public awareness, understanding, education

Connections and partnerships for collective impact

Organizational policies, actions, and programs

Community building

                A.4 Brainstormed Ideas (sorted by category)

Formal Education

Food workshops for children in schools

Partnerships between schools and local growers for in-school teaching and farm field trips (6)

College program in agribusiness

Curriculum reform to include food skills like cooking, growing, and nutrition (9)

School gardens (2)

Healthy fundraising in school and at work ie. healthier foods than hot dogs and pizza

High school volunteer hours for food/ growing activities

Government incentives and policy/ regulation

Community food advocacy committee

Approach local and provincial government agencies for support

Public funding for farm training, farm startups (2)

Lobby corp to be more sustainable globally

Less government interference

Incentives to grow own food

Tax fast food heavily

Lobby higher levels of government to force change ie. requiring local food in big box stores

Townships change zoning bylaws for farms to be shared multi-dwelling

Lobby Parry Sound to allow backyard chickens (3)

Change regulations to make it easier for small local abattoirs

Municipal government to adopt laws to allow more small scale agriculture

Program to reclaim vacant usable land for production

Remove regulations on best before dates

Remove regulations that prevent food trading

Picket the MPP and MP offices

Leading by example/ individual change

Grow food at home and share it (3)

Become vegan during the week

Reduce consumption of processed food

Try new recipes with 5 natural/local ingredients

Take up hunting and fishing

Shop local

Increase time to cook/grow food by reducing work week

Public awareness, understanding, education

Farm mapping

Made in Parry Sound Area brand

Food writer critique with local focus

Social & traditional media campaign to promote local food and nutrition (2)

Info/resources in grocery stores

Farm tours, with local media present

Learning experiences that are accessible for all abilities

Promote alternative agriculture projects eg. mushrooms

Adopt the food charter                

Connections and partnerships for collective impact

Lend land for farming

Farm mentoring program

Directory of workable land/farms for affordable rent/trade

Network and events events for food system actors (2)

Ignite a cooperative food and farming system

Organizational policies, actions, programs

Local food purchasing policies in schools, hospitals, long-term care homes (2)

Downtown green roof

Community building

Celebrations around traditional and wild food

Community greenhouse and lessons (2)

Composting program and home composting (2)

Veggie gardens in public spaces

Create healthy eating supportive environments in community (rec centres, community centres, parks)

Community food/garden coop (2)

Farm rideshare

Bring together concerned community groups to plan and execute projects to grow local food

Competition for the best backyard vegetable garden

Music events on farms

Local food community dinners and cook-offs (2)

                A.5 Participant Reflections

1. What was something learned?

2. What is something you want to do?

I realized that the interconnections between food and community is paramount

I will increase my effort to connect with many different parts of my community ie. schools, harvest share, etc.

Strong community interest in increasing connectedness of food players

Support momentum

Participants were varied in backgrounds with common ideas and hopes for a better future for Parry Sound and the earth in general

A bonus would be lunch made with all locally sourced ingredients

Importance of local production

Create a garden in my backyard

Many interested groups

Write letters and change bylaws, go to schools and introduce new programs

All the interested parties, common goal

Urban chickens in town zoning bylaws, "made in PS", urban agriculture

There are lots of organizations interested in food issues

There needs to be more cooperation between said groups to plan and execute tangible projects

I learned that food plays a large role in everyday lives, from the individual, the community local business, and corporate business

I want to be part of the change/ move towards a more sustainable food source and economy for the Parry Sound District

The connections needed with education (elementary)

Work more to develop partnerships/ networks in area

Many people/ groups share a common sense of the changes we'd like in the food system

Letter to town re. chickens, share the plethora of ideas, come to #2 lab

Great people in the room!

I could contribute to zoning/ regulatory change

A lot of like-minded people


People need to write letters to the town of PS re. chickens. Take actions!

Tell my friends and family about everything I've learned and encourage them to support local food

Wide discussion of issues

Land available for farming, school/college education, year round access to food products

Still need to reach out to new parties- build group

Help create a Made in Parry Sound Label

There is a lot of great people here doing great things and I need to take more action rather than keep thinking

Invite local growers and producers to sell their products in our store

There are great community leaders in Parry Sound who want to make a stronger food system

I am available to talk/ present on food co-op development/ ideas. I encourage Parry Sound to keep going on this!

        B. Lab 2 Results

Lab 2 results are predominantly recorded in the main body of this report in the “Summary: Lab Day 2 Section”. Only final reflections on the day are recorded here.

                B.1 Final Reflections

1. What was something learned?

2. What is something you want to do?

Anything is possible


How many like-minded people live here

Write letters, Contact People, Collaborate!, Use trello to organize

I learned just how hard [it is] to motivate/ focus a group for change

DFVI, very useful for processes action

create the strategies to tell our community

I discovered a keen interest in local food and nutrition with the students who attended this seminar

I intend to volunteer at the local high school as an instructor

Made 3 amazing connections today

I cannot wait to act on these new directions! Many thanks Jess & all

The opportunities for community gardens

Backyard hens or part of zoning by-law review

I have learned that there are a lot of like-minded people in the community wrt Food

Meet with my executive director, share info, and get started with community food hub

I learned about setting more formal goals, next steps, and tasks

Communication tools is what I will take forward

C. Lab Handouts/Templates

                C.1 System Mapping Template


C.2 Seeing the System Handouts

Dominant System: Prompt Questions

  1. What are the traits of the system as it currently stands?
  2. Where is food coming from and going?
  3. How are different groups accessing food?
  4. Who is controlling different aspects of the food system?

Ideal System: Prompt Questions

  1. Where do we want food to come from?
  2. What role do we want food to play in our community?
  3. How can food be a force for good?

Control Variables: Prompt Questions

  1. Define some “outcomes” of them system- what controls those outcomes?
  2. What has driven change in the past?
  3. Where do you see connections or actors that influence large parts of the system?

Sentence Stem Examples:


C.3 DFVI Handout

Note: Colours of headings correspond to colour coded dots used in dot-mocracy. Dots are available from any office supply store.


What problem is being solved and for whom? How much would they want this solution?


Is there capacity and capabilities to deliver on the solution? Is the necessary technology available and affordable?


Can society accept it? Can it fit with current regulations and policies? Is there a market for it?


Can it achieve the desired impact and outcomes

                C.4 Theory of Change Template

ST= short term, MT= medium term, LT=long term

D. Lab Results: Online Survey

Question 1:

Question 2:

Question 3:

Question 4:

Question 5:

Question 6:

Question 7:

Question 8:

Was all quite productive. Would like to see a bit more of a top down related approach, as to how the ideas related and how they would be administered, however maybe it is too soon for that.

4/28/2016 10:35 AM 

Wonderful facilitation that moved quickly and kept us on track. This is not an easy skill that all people possess- thank you Studio [Y].

4/26/2016 4:01 PM

I really felt that it was a positive venture, and the interest of the community was evident. There is a want for change!

4/26/2016 9:31 AM 

The pacing was very good-- the right amount of time for discussion both in small groups/large.

4/26/2016 9:06 AM

Both exciting. A big time commitment. I wish the same people could have attended both sessions - perhaps a wee bit closer together...?

4/25/2016 5:27 PM 

I liked the process. It would have been nice to see more food producers and farmers there. They are the connections that need to be made.

4/25/2016 3:13 PM 

I enjoyed meeting like-minded individuals who care about the community and food.

4/25/2016 2:56 PM 

I liked how well ideas where thought out, the structure was very thorough. The unbiased facilitation was great. The venue was a little loud day one, more networking activities or ice breakers might have helped.

4/25/2016 2:51 PM

Question 9:

I believe it need to come from the top down. Get the business structure, planning and market approach completed and then develop a campaign around that.

4/28/2016 10:35 AM 

This is a big question. Awareness raising and education on food insecurity and the root causes. Sharing of events/initiatives related to food to build a sense of community and food culture. A multi pronged approach not only for those of high socio- economic status.

4/26/2016 4:01 PM 

From a business perspective and as a producer I would like to see the "eat local" movement on restaurant menus. From an overall perspective I think we need to pair up local food with events to celebrate and advertise. To also be able to young farmers who wish to become a part of the system.

4/26/2016 9:31 AM 

Regular articles to promote connections with local food producers and consumers. Promotion of "skills" via media

4/26/2016 9:06 AM

That locally grown food is available

4/25/2016 6:53 PM

Farmers, images of people with hands in the earth, profile on community gardeners?, profile someone/family who subscribes to good food box?

4/25/2016 5:27 PM

I would love to see more information about the benefits of shopping local and if we can get the farm mapping up and running to show people what and where local food is available. Local food isn't always less money, often it is more but it is about keeping money in the community, knowing where your food comes from, who is growing and producing your food, how the food is being raised. Farmers in this area have to pay more for butchering and feed than larger scale companies that produce meat and vegetables. So don't expect to pay less but know that you are buying better and smarter.

4/25/2016 3:13 PM 

more local stories shared

4/25/2016 2:56 PM

It would be great to feature 'good news stories' as well as upcoming events etc. Stories about how people are able to grow things here despite rock and short season, or how they are able to educate others. Regularity is also very important, so people can expect it. Multi formats (online and offline) would be ideal to reach max. people.

4/25/2016 2:51 PM 

[1] Shawanaga First Nation Website, Our History

[2] Interviews conducted by author December to March 2016

[3] The District of Parry Sound Speaks Out on Poverty, 2010

[4] Blue Sky Region Agricultural Economic Profile, 2009

[5] The District of Parry Sound Speaks Out on Poverty, 2010

[6] Parry Sound and Area Food System Infographic, 2016,

[7] Social Innovation Lab Guide, WISER

[8] The Social Labs Revolution, Zaid Hassan

[9] Social Innovation Lab Guide, WISER

[10] The Social Labs Revolution, Zaid Hassan

[11] Parry Sound and Area Food System Infographic, 2016,

[12] See Appendix C.3 for DFVI handout