Workshop 3 Summary

We took a summer break, and now we’re back with a summary of our third workshop.

Our pilot year has come to an end, but it’s just new beginnings for many initiatives that have come out of our lab process:

●  Circular food curriculum pilot (under the Our Food Our Future theme) with a class at Hawthorne School that will include: vermicomposting workshop, food waste campaign at school and letter campaign to local politicians.
●  Proposal to the Weston Foundation for funding to test different food waste awareness campaign strategies in Toronto
●  Ongoing participation in the steering committee Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Food and Organic Waste Framework
●  Creating an open source guide to running a Food Systems Lab or similar process.
●  Ongoing participation in the National Food Policy consultation for Canada
●  Contributing to Food Secure Canada’s policy briefing note on food waste
●  Presenting findings at the Association of European Schools of Planning conference, Coventry U.K
●  Contributing a food waste policy commentary for the Canadian Association of Food Studies Special Issue on National Food Policy (October 2017)
●  Part of the advisory committee for LyoFresh Technology, one of the solutions pitched under the theme “Technology for Change”
●  Part of the advisory committee for “Brew Growth” to pilot coffee ground to community garden initiative across the GTA
●  Steering Committee of the first Feeding 5000 event in Toronto, utilizing what would have been wasted food to feed 5000 people (part of the international FeedBack campaign). October 8th 2017
●  Part of an expert panel for the CBC Radio Ideas program “Feeding the Future” October 27th 2017

From Over 30 Ideas to 7 Business Concepts

At Workshop 2, our goal was to expand our thinking from the problem of food waste to systemic solutions that can reduce food waste in Toronto. We took participants through a process of generating lots of divergent solution ideas, then whittled these ideas down to a handful of business concepts.

One fascinating exercise is seeing how the ideas morphed through the process. Thanks to the detailed note-taking efforts of our volunteer facilitators, we can share the evolution of the 30+ ideas to 7 business concepts.

First Brainstorm in an Innovation Ideas Cafe

Process: Each person received a summary of outputs from Workshop 1. They received three cue cards, each linked with one of the outputs (trend map, horns of the dilemma, timeline). They then wrote the most important problem area or issue they think must be addressed to reduce food waste in Toronto onto the front of the cue card. On the back of the cue card, they wrote an idea for a solution to the problem or issue. This list is a compilation of the ideas from the cue cards, in alphabetical order, with duplicates removed or similar ideas merged.

  • Accompany municipal compost program with education (e.g. compost is not a solution but a last resort)
  • Anti-oppressive lens; getting marginalized groups to the table about food waste/food system issues
  • App to show near-wasted food
  • Bring back backyard chickens
  • Certification for food waste labelling or have businesses certified by level of food waste
  • Community food sharing and bartering
  • Community vermi-composting
  • Consistent date labelling policies that address food safety rather than quality; ‘use by’ instead of ‘best before’
  • Decentralization of food supply chain; reduce transportation so fresher for longer
  • Decentralizing access to food; community farms
  • Education around overproduction/consumption and waste (e.g. public campaigns)
  • Eliminate red tape that deters redirection of food waste
  • Engage people in how food is produced (e.g. how meat is produced, genetically-modified foods)
  • Examine reports on the operations and supply chain cost in both local and corporate finances
  • Fair conditions for migrant workers
  • Fair trade solutions
  • Feed animals food waste
  • Food recipients to connect with logistics/warehousing companies
  • Food recovery platform enables food donors to connect with food recipients
  • Implement basic income which will help people choose proper nutritious food
  • Improving organizing food at home and in supermarket for food quality & safety standards
  • Incentives to people for buying local foods
  • Landfill organics ban
  • Organize food supply chain based on demand instead of supply-driven
  • Publish a food scraps cookbook on how to turn scraps into food (e.g. soups, breads)
  • Relax bylaws to allow more urban composting and urban growing
  • Revamp Ontario labour laws (e.g. improve conditions for retail, restaurant workers, UberEats drivers)
  • Show people how food is created (e.g. go to farms, kill your food if you want animals, cooking classes, farming education)
  • System mapping
  • Tax wasteful and harmful products and put this money toward encouraging new farmers
  • Teaching growing food from food waste (lettuce grown from compost)
  • Use the empty back haul capacity in trucks, food orgs, bike couriers, UberEats
  • Valuing imperfect products in field or supermarket
  • Write a food charter

Ranking and Clustering Ideas for Bricolage

Process: Each person identified their top solution idea for reducing food waste in Toronto. They then made this idea ten times bolder and wrote it on a cue card along with the first step needed to implement this idea. The cue cards were passed around, reviewed by others and then ranked with a score of 1-5 (1=not interested, 5=very interested). The top scoring ideas were clustered into themes for bricolage groups. Then, any themes that did not emerge, but were still important to participants were identified and added to the list for bricolage. Ideas are listed in alphabetical order. Participants then chose groups for bricolage. The ideas that were integrated or merged into the groups are bolded.

  • App to monitor, broadcast food waste
  • Ban food waste
  • Best practices and community mapping
  • “Buy less” food campaign
  • Community bartering
  • Create Ministry of Waste Reduction
  • Domestic exchange
  • Food literacy in schools (including composting)
  • Food waste campaign
  • Grading (relaxing standards)
  • High density residential food spaces
  • In-store zero waste charts
  • Incentivize food donations
  • Monitor + track organic food waste
  • Near Expiration (retail) and “popular” restaurant
  • Restaurants connecting to community gardens
  • Schools as food hubs
  • Value-added products out of food waste
  • Waste reduction handling certificate


Process: On the second day, participants created bricolage sculptures in their groups with found objects. After creating and presenting their sculptures, they were asked to ‘destroy’ the sculpture by taking away the most important element. This process of creative destruction and rebuilding helped open up new creative possibilities.

Turning Ideas to Business Concepts on a Rhizome Impact Canvas

Process: After presentations of the rebuilt bricolage sculptures, participants re-grouped and selected ideas to map on a Rhizome Impact Canvas template, which is modelled after a business model canvas. The purpose of mapping an idea on a canvas is to ground-truth the implementation realities of the idea and turn it into a business concept to refine and test in the prototyping phase.

Seven ideas were expanded into rough business concepts. Original canvases are available in a compiled PDF.

Food Literacy in Schools: Comprehensive environmental and social curriculum in schools around food skills and food waste such as experiential learning with food management, gardening, composting.

Grade ‘C’ Food App: An app to create new local, regional and commercial channels for grade ‘C’ food.

Growing Local/Dining Local: Connect community gardens/urban growers with restaurants so the community gardens/urban growers have access to high quality compostable organics, restaurants divert organic waste, and restaurants also have access to purchase tasty, seasonal, local food.

Ministry of Waste Reduction: Create a ministry/department designated to waste reduction, with a focus at the local level. Switching from a waste management to waste reduction perspective.

National Food Policy Food Waste Campaign for Consumers/Households: Promote equitable access to food that is also environmentally and economically sustainable through a combination of policy, operational and promotional tools such as expansion of organics collection, food waste bans, and education on food literacy.

Solution Mapping: Connect and reform Torontonians/Ontarians/Canadians about food waste projects and transferable ideas to reduce duplication of effort.

Technology for Change: Introduce food processing technology at the farm level to decrease perishability while increasing revenue by capturing more the value chain through selling preserved crops throughout the year.


Workshop 2: Photo Gallery

From Mar 1 to 2, we hosted our second Food Systems Lab workshop on designing solutions to address the issue of food waste. We applied our systems understanding developed in the first lab and used it together with social innovation tools and methods to identify emerging patterns, programs, initiatives, ideas that could transform the system. Here is a glimpse of what we did over the two days.

Hon. Glen Murray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Ontario and Special Advisor to the Food Systems Lab dropped by for a visit to share some opening remarks. Photo by Belinda Li.

Telling the story of workshop 1 through improv. Photo by Lesia Kinach.

The first cut of ideas at the end of the first day. Photo by Lesia Kinach.

Tammara Soma and Dr. Marie Wilson (Food Systems Lab Special Advisor on Indigenous Matters and Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) leading the closing circle on the first day. Photo by Ania Ek. 

Exploring our ideas through bricolage. In this exercise, groups sculpted their solutions using representative symbols from everyday objects they found outside or at home. This group worked on food literacy in schools as a way to reduce food waste by re-valuing food and building skills to prepare, preserve and store food. Photo by Belinda Li.

Sharing our bricolage creations. Photo by Ania Ek.

After creating the bricolage, groups were asked to remove the most important element and rebuild their bricolage. For this group (Ministry of Waste Reduction), they had to remove the connections between the three levels of government. Their solution transformed from the one on the left to the one on the right. Photos by Belinda Li.

Moving from ideas to concept. Each group used a Rhizome Impact Canvas to translate the ideas (the elements in the sculpture) into a business concept, like this one. Photo by Rafaela Gutierrez.


Workshop 1: Pictures are worth thousands of words

Tammara welcoming all our relations to workshop 1. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.
Tammara welcoming all our relations to workshop 1. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.

Our learning circle, immersing in indigenous lessons from Maria Montejo. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.
Our learning circle, immersing in indigenous lessons from Maria Montejo. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.

How did we get here? Exploring personal, organizational, regional, national and global history to uncover causes of food waste. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.
How did we get here? Exploring personal, organizational, regional, national and global history to uncover causes of food waste. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.

Debriefing 'Mission: Research' in our secret bunker. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.
Debriefing ‘Mission: Research’ in the depth of our secret bunker. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.

Drawing a collage of our food waste observations on Black Friday around Dundas and Yonge. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.
Drawing a collage of our food waste observations on Black Friday around Dundas and Yonge. Photo by Omar Elsharkawy.

Apply Now for the Food Systems Lab

The application process to participate in the first workshop is now open. If you would like to take a visible leadership role in helping to shape the future of a food system in the Greater Toronto Area that minimizes waste while unlocking new opportunities for collaboration with leaders in the food system, please complete an online application form by November 8, 2016. Applicants will be notified by November 11, 2016 if they are selected to participate.

The Lab will run as a pilot for one year with three workshops:

  1. Seeing the System (November 24-25, 2016) – The goal of this workshop is to gain a broad and deep understanding of the system and open new possibilities for interpretation. We will use whole system thinking tools to uncover assumptions, mental models, and bring a diversity of viewpoints.
  2. Designing (March 2016, dates TBD) – Social innovation tools and methods will be used to identify emerging patterns, programs, initiatives, ideas that could transform the system. Possible innovations and opportunities will be explored.
  3. Prototyping (July 2016, dates TBD) – Design thinking tools will be used to prototype possible innovations and opportunities. A rapid iteration process is used to maximize learning while minimizing the feedback loop.

Working groups will be formed at the first workshop and will continue on initiatives between workshops.

Workshop Fee

The participation fee is $100. This fee includes lunch and refreshments on both days of the workshop. Full and partial bursaries are available on an as-needed basis.

Lab Participant Attributes

We are seeking leaders in Toronto with the following attributes:

  • Ability to influence the actions of your organization
  • Deep curiosity
  • Passion for social innovation
  • Ability and desire to commit the time required
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Trust in the process
  • Links with other organizations and networks in the food system
  • Love of learning and desire to share their unique insights and experience
  • Openness to the idea that if we want to change the system, we also need to see our role in it and be open to changing ourselves at some level