Nourishing Ontario: Sustainable Local Food Systems Research Group

Getting Started

Using the Community Food Toolkit

i. Getting Started    ii. Visioning Exercises   iii. SWOT Analysis and Asset / Gap Mapping

iv. Case Studies


Once you have a comprehensive of list of who to invite, you need to consider next steps.  Depending on how far along in the process of creating a more resilient food system you are, you will have varying resources and kinds of expertise to draw on.  In order to be as thorough as possible, we will assume you have no food initiatives in your community.  If you have already embarked along this road, then, jump ahead to whatever next steps make the most sense for your community.


Setting the agenda

To begin the process, you may find it useful to start with a very open-ended agenda so you are gathering as much information and energy as you can from the outset.  Your first agenda may be as simple as introducing yourselves and beginning the visioning process.  This will depend on a few things, the most important of which is how much time you have to meet.  If you are  a large group, introducing yourselves and engaging in an icebreaker activity may be all you have time for.  If you have more time, you may also get into setting a vision, identifying assets and gaps, reviewing your options and goal setting.  Regardless of how much you do, before you leave each meeting you need to take time to:

1. ensure you can reach all the people who attended;

2. review the progress you made;

3. have a plan for your next steps; and,

4. set the next time to meet.



It helps to have one or two people from outside your food community to run the meeting(s) as you get started.  An independent person can make things flow and helps to ensure you accomplish your goals.  This person could be from local government, a school principal, community leader, or a hired facilitator.   Ideally, they need to comfortable running a large group event and also understand your goals.



Allowing the people in the room to become familiar with each other and understand you have a common interest will help make the process more engaging and relevant.  It will also help everyone feel comfortable contributing to the process.  The icebreaker you choose will depend on how much time you have and how well people know each other before the meeting.

Some icebreakers you may want to consider, listed from least to most complex, are:

* Devise categories (for example: types of stakeholders and organizations, whether they have ever grown any of their own food, where they live) and ask people to stand or raise their hand if they identify with each group as the facilitator calls them out.

* Ask everyone to introduce themselves and in one or two sentences explain why they have come to the meeting.

* Ask everyone to take 2 minutes to write down their top three goals for their community food system and then share this with the person sitting next to them.

* Divide people into groups of up to five people.  Provide 20 marshmallows, 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 meter of string and 1 meter of masking tape to each group and ask them to build the tallest, freestanding tower they can in a given time (usually 15-30 minutes).   If you have a group that doesn’t know each other well and enough time, this can be a great activity to help set a positive tone.  For more information and insights you can check out:

* Puzzles Game.  Give participants a blank piece of puzzle (cut up a sheet of index card stock). Each person writes on the piece one skill which they contribute to the group. The puzzle is then assembled to show that everyone contributes to the whole. (This icebreaker is from where they have even more icebreakers listed)

Regardless of what you decide to do , the questions and tone should be welcoming so people know their views are respected.  One of the most important things is to have fun!

Once you feel more comfortable with each other, you can begin your building process.