Community Case Studies

ACT for CFS LogoActivating Change Together for Community Food Security (ACT for CFS)

2010 – 2015

Community Case Studies

Participatory Community Food Security Assessments

A “Participatory Community Food Security Assessment” is a tool by which individuals or groups gather information to develop an overall picture of community food security. The assessments were used to gather local level information and experiences of community members that help us understand needs and opportunities to build community food security.

Map indicating the four Nova Scotia community case studies and host organizations involved in the research project
Map of Nova Scotia case communities

Four communities in Nova Scotia – Eastern Shelburne County, Northeastern Kings County, Spryfield (Halifax), and Pictou County – were selected through a participatory process to represent both rural and urban communities and diverse elements of food systems in Nova Scotia. Each assessment has been led by local organizations (see descriptions of Host Organizations below) with other community leaders and groups in partnership with university researchers.

The Participatory Community Food Security Assessments were carried out using a three-phase, mixed methods participatory approach. According to the Participatory Action Research (PAR) model, the assessments were designed collaboratively between the community and university partners.

Phase 1

In Phase 1 (2011-2012) we engaged over 400 people representing community members, project partners and other provincial stakeholders to identify priority areas and gaps in knowledge relating to community food security. These 10 areas of interest (or indicators) reflected both community specific interests as well as common interests across the communities, to highlight similarities and differences.

The 10 community food security indicators include:

  • Community participation in food-related activities;
  • Programs that support food education and skills;
  • Formal food production;
  • Physical accessibility of food;
  • Availability and range of food outlets;
  • Economic accessibility of food;
  • Supports for populations vulnerable to food insecurity;
  • Supports for community development opportunities and barriers to selling food locally; and cooperation;
  • Conditions that support breastfeeding.

Each community also identified one unique issue of interest that addressed an important aspect of community food security in Nova Scotia.

Phase 2

In Phase 2 (2012-2014), community-based researchers, trained in research methods, gathered both quantitative and qualitative data on these indicators to represent over 200 people’s experiences, stories and connections to community food security.

Phase 3

Phase 3 (2013-2014) involved thematic analysis and interpretation of the data using a case study approach to construct a rich narrative of community food security at the level of each case community, as well as provincially. We ensured trustworthiness throughout the research by drawing upon multiple data sources and methods, as well as other related research, including the results from the Policy Landscape research mentioned above. The results were further interpreted by those most involved in the research.

While every Nova Scotian community is unique, we believe these findings may be relevant to many other communities in this province and elsewhere, captured in Making Food Matter: Strategies for Activating Change
Each community prepared a draft community-level report, and shared the findings with community members and partners through community dialogues and engagement to further interpret the results and identify key opportunities for change and action. Community Reports are available here.

Host Organizations
Eastern Shelburne County, NS

Shelburne Seeds – Tri County Local Food Network

The Tri County Local Food Network was formed in 2009 to help build and support a sustainable, healthy, local food system within the TriCounty area of Nova Scotia. This region covers Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne Counties, located approximately 2 ½ hours from Halifax, and it includes Shelburne, Lockeport, and a number of rural fishing communities. It is an area where the median income for individuals and families is significantly lower than the median income for Nova Scotia as whole.

The Network is working to build a sustainable food system, accessible to all, through action, education, advocacy, and relationship building. It is accomplishing this by:

  • encouraging and prompting buying local
  • strengthening Community /Farmer’s Markets
  • developing and strengthening Community Gardens
  • carrying out research that enhances our understanding of food security
  • hosting community events that celebrate and highlight local food production
  • providing educational opportunities to learn about food production, preparation, and preservation.
NorthEastern Kings County, NS

Kids Action Program
Facebook page :

The Kids Action Program has served more than 30 communities in three counties (Kings, Annapolis and East Hants) for over fifteen years. Its many innovative programs are designed to address the root causes and corrosive effects of family poverty. In order to increase the chances for the children in these communities to get a fair and equitable start in life, the Kids Action Program works with a holistic model of child and family development. This includes children focused, parent focused, and family focused programs such as:

  • early childhood development and care,
  • family literacy and educational upgrading support,
  • outreach support,
  • parent education and support groups,
  • transportation and advocacy,
  • programs aimed at:
    • addressing family violence,
    • referrals to other resources, and
    • individual and group counseling.

Sensitive and responsive to the transportation challenges that many of our socio-economically marginalized and geographically isolated participants face, the Kids Action Program has become a leader in the field of program delivery in the rural outreach context.

Food security is one of the core parts of many of the programs. The Kids Action Program directs services to individuals and families who may be at risk because of one or more factors: poverty, violence, abuse & neglect, poor health and nutrition, developmental delay, social and/or emotional problems, inadequate local support services, injury or disability, social or geographical isolation.

The program accomplishes this by working with a number of partners such as Community-Supported Agriculture groups in Kings and Hants Counties, universities, Community Food Mentors, local farmers and producers and many more. Driven by the needs of the community, the Kids Action Program programming is flexible and varied from year to year. This allows staff to accommodate the developing needs and interests of participants and the communities they serve.

Some of the Kids Action Program programs include:

  • a support group specifically for breastfeeding mothers
  • cooking workshops for adults and children that utilize local, in season foods
  • Great Beginnings, a prenatal and early infancy program of that serves young, rurally isolated women in both Hants and Kings Counties. It prioritizes low-income women likely to be lone-parents and at risk of not completing high school.
  • the Food Box Program consisting of healthy foods delivered to women from the time they discover they are pregnant and until their babies are six months of age.
  • the Garden Project in both Kings and Hants Counties which addressed individual, household and community food insecurity by increasing the amount of fresh produce available to families

For more information on the Kids Action Program, visit their Facebook page at

Spryfield, NS

Chebucto Connections
Website: »

Chebucto Connections is all about making and encouraging the connections that build community in order to create a healthy and vibrant place to live and work. Since 1985, they have been working to link individuals to groups, groups to individuals, and groups and communities to each other.

The organization is located in the Spryfield area of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Spryfield itself is a community of approximately 4,000 residents, with a wealth of resources such as the Captain William Spry Community Centre with wave pool and library, schools and churches, the Community Wellness Centre, an active Business Commission, and lots of green space. The community has been designated a District Centre under the HRM Regional Plan so Chebucto Connections also serves surrounding communities from Armdale to Sambro and the Pennants. This includes peri-urban as well as rural areas, for a total population of 35,000.

Food security has been a focus of Chebucto Connections’ work within the community for many years. It has partnered with organizations in the community that focus on food security, including food banks, the Urban Farm Museum Society, which promotes food production in the urban area, and family support groups. A founding member of the Ecology Action Centre’s Food Action Committee, Chebucto Connections has also worked with community members on improving access to local food, and currently runs the Coffee Talk Community Kitchen in Greystone. The organization is also a wealth of information about food within the Spryfield community, past and present. and the Urban Farm Museum Society of Spryfield have a number of publications on the topic, including:

  • Food in Spryfield and Surrounding Areas, 1920’s to 1960, an oral history of food in Spryfield
  • Enough to Eat, a submission to HRM Regional Planning, July 27, 2005 with the Urban Farm Museum Society and the Food Action Committee of Ecology Action Centre
  • Foods of Spry’s Field: Cooking and Preserving, Then and Now, a local, seasonal cookbook
    – two brochures on vegetable planting times, and growing soft fruits, as well as a poster about eating local foods in season

To find out more about Chebucto Connections, visit their website at

Pictou County, NS

Pictou County Food Security Coalition
Website: »

The Pictou County Food Security Coalition began in 2006 when representatives from Kids First Family Resource Centre, the Pictou County Women’s Centre, and Public Health Services identified the need to work more closely together on the issue of food security. Despite being a largely rural region, and the rich agriculture and fishing history of Pictou County, currently only 5.8% of its residents work in agriculture or other resource-based industries such as forestry, and fishing.

Since 2006, the Coalition’s membership has expanded and undertaken a variety of community food security initiatives:

  • Since 2006, Kids First and Public Health have collaborated on a Community Food Mentor program that aims to improve basic food and nutrition skills in vulnerable populations within our community. The Coalition as a whole has provided input and networking opportunities that have informed the roll-out of this program.
  • In 2007, they developed a local food guide called “Experience Local Food in Pictou County“, which involved networking with local farmers to be included in the guide and with the local Planning Commission who created the map. This was revised in 2010
  • In 2008, they supported the creation of the New Glasgow Riverfront Farmers Market.
  • In 2009 they hosted a ‘Feast of Local Food‘ dinner in collaboration with the culinary students at the Nova Scotia Community College, Pictou Campus
  • In 2011 members of the Coalition started a community garden in MacLellan’s Brook

Each of the member organizations has also been supportive of programs in its own right, including such things as providing food supplements to young pregnant women, providing breastfeeding support, providing educational programs around budgeting and food preparation, and promoting buy local campaigns.

To find out more about Pictou County Food Security Coalition, visit their website at