Food Security



Food Security


Department of Community Services, Provincial Government of Nova Scotia, in partnership with Davis Pier


human services


program and service design

design process coaching

workshop facilitation


6 months

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An innovation lab designed to unearth resident-led policy solutions to food insecurity.


Food insecurity rates in Nova Scotia are among the worst in Canada. In 2018, in response to the high rates of food insecurity across the province, the provincial government’s Department of Community Service decided to fund an innovation lab whose purpose was to answer this question:

What are the best ways to sustainably improve food security rates in communities where people cannot access food that they like and enjoy on a regular basis?

The form the innovation lab could take would be flexible, the only condition was that it actively engage Nova Scotian residents, and particularly those with lived experience.


We partnered with Canadian government consulting firm, Davis Pier, to both design the Innovation Lab itself (form and function) and guide its implementation. We designed the Lab to be an inclusive human-centered design process that would unfurl over six months and move through each stage of design: from discovery through prototyping. We invited individuals with lived experience, civic society leaders, and researchers to form a design team, and together conducted observations, interviews, contextual inquiry, focus groups, and workshops in communities across the Province to better understand the nature of food insecurity in Nova Scotia and the experiences of those affected by it.

We used the insights from this discovery phase to fuel a community co-design process involving workshops and feedback sessions that put community members in the driver's seat and gave them the tools and space to imagine their own solutions. With an eye towards both the Province’s needs as well as the potential for impact, we narrowed in on two ideas for which we then built prototypes and tested alongside community members: (1) Food-Inclusive Housing and (2) Micro Kitchens, small café-restaurants run out of people’s homes. Both options were presented to DCS for more in-depth prototyping and piloting, and DCS has chosen to advance Food-Inclusive Housing.

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“The [Studio] team possesses significant depth and expertise as it relates to public and social services…we simply would have not been able to deliver work to this level of quality without The Social Impact Studio.”


With a strong interest in pursuing policy solutions with the potential for impact at scale, DCS is currently undertaking additional testing of Food-Inclusive Housing. DCS is specifically examining  the viability and impacts of regulation (the option of requiring that new construction of low- and middle-income housing in Nova Scotia include facilities and resources to provide a certain number of meals per week to residents) or incentives (subsidies and/or additional revenue from the provision of meals on-site in specific neighborhoods or residential complexes).

active-caseJessica Mason