Case Study of Food Secure Saskatchewan: The Evolution of a Provincial Food Security Network


Established between 2004 and 2005, Food Secure Saskatchewan is a network of organizations and individuals working to achieve food security for all Saskatchewan citizens through a healthy and sustainable food system. The network includes community food coalitions, nutritionists and other health professionals, civil servants, local producers and food consumer activists.


The purpose of Food Secure Saskatchewan is to improve food security in the province through coordinated, community-led action.

Primary Activities

  • To foster networking and coordination among groups who are engaged in or wishing to become engaged in delivering and improving food security in the province. 
  • Advocate for, and work towards improved food security policies and programs for Saskatchewan citizens
  • Enhance the skills and knowledge of the membership and their community partners 
  • Provide support and information to groups working in the delivery of front-line food security initiatives and policies


Evolution of Food Secure Saskatchewan

In and around 2003 (exact dates unknown) the provincial government ran 8 roundtables (all across the province) with various food security organizations, dieticians, farmers, social workers, newcomer organizations, Indigenous Band members and educators. These roundtables were focused on specific issues related to food security such as child hunger as an example. In noticing all the gaps in the food system, a grassroots initiative emerged from these roundtables which aimed foster coordination among the various groups and individuals who work to improve food security in the province. 

Food Secure Saskatchewan originally functioned as a network (not incorporated). The original members felt that a network who operated by consensus would be the most appropriate operating model as it allowed for multiple voices to be heard, especially given the diversity of topics and representation in the food system. An overview of the accountability and commitment requirements of the group is provided below. 

Each member contributed what they could and when a new project was initiated, a member of the network would step forward on behalf to apply for funding and oversee it from an administration and management standpoint. Accountability still remained within the Network. It was most common to see members from the Regina and Saskatoon areas leading projects as they had the most capacity to do so.

Commitment and Accountability of the membership

  • Participate in the work of the group. Ability to contribute time and resources will vary
    • Each member is asked what he/she can contribute to the group and every effort will is made to accommodate and support their ability and interests in contributing 
  • Participate in 3 meetings/year. 
  • Decisions will be made by consensus wherever possible. (Consensus is considered, “can you live with the decision?”). When this is not possible, for reasons of impasse or time, a majority vote will be called. Co-chairs will not vote unless there is a tie. 
  • Individuals are accountable to their own organizations, the communities they represent and to Food Secure Saskatchewan to participate in the work of the group

In 2010, Food Secure Saskatchewan incorporated as a non-profit and was able to secure federal aid funding to run specific programming. Incorporation allowed them to expand their work and impact in the community by having access to more resources and guaranteed an annual general meeting to bring together all partners and members for discussion, oversight and planning. Incorporation also allowed them to access federal and provincial funding on their own (they were previously not eligible for federal funding and/or had to apply through a member organization). 

This was short-lived however, and in 2015, Food Secure Saskatchewan decided to unincorporate and moved back to its roots as a network. The members of the network weren’t interested in keeping the requirements of running an organization going (holding AGMs, hiring and managing staff etc.) and a formal structure proved to be limiting. By unincorporating, members felt a network model would allow them to keep the most important piece of the group alive – sharing knowledge and information. It would also give each member the flexibility to contribute in a way that suited their organization and capacity. 

In the last number of years, many of the original members have stepped away from their roles with the member organizations and therefore Food Secure Saskatchewan. While new staff have filled the roles, it has left a gap in knowledge specific to the work of Food Secure Saskatchewan. Section E will outline the current recommendations for the future of this network which is once again in transition.


Key Successes

Food Studies

Food assessments were done across the province which has given smaller towns and cities a tool and format to understand the food security context in their region. Approximately 12 food assessments were completed, some with cities and others with regional areas (including northern communities). The team followed a similar framework to the food assessments completed in Nova Scotia. In many cases, once the food assessment was complete, small towns would go on to develop their own smaller network to look at the issues specific to their region.

So when we've did the food assessments across the province, that's given a tool and a format for lots of smaller places to really look at what their situation is. A lot of times in rural areas, small towns will not admit they have food insecurity issues because nobody's going to want to come to them. In those food assessments, a lot of times they were done by area or zone but that did help small towns to look at what was happening. We got a little bit of money to do that, but we also, as a team, supported those food assessments and helped them form, in a lot of cases, their own smaller food network to look at those issues.


An annual conference was held for members of the network to connect, share information and look at specific issues related to food security. Members would come in from all across the province and it was a great opportunity to share information (program and services), enhance collaboration and connect with politicians and ministries. Examples of topics included: addictions and food security, the farm income crisis, socially responsible food production, food security and policy. This conference was also an opportunity to enhance the knowledge and skills of the membership on specific topics. Community kitchens, good food boxes and school nutrition programs were always of interest.  Finally, the conference also acted as a place to do strategic planning exercises and have conversations on the future of the network and their focus. There were ongoing discussions as to whether it was more beneficial for the network to act as an advocate or educator/information sharing. Each year, a member of the network who had the capacity to do so, would take on the responsibilities of organizing and hosting. They would seek out funding to support as well.

Saskatchewan is a very large province and people are very spread out, many are working in isolation and to have an opportunity to meet with like-minded people and organizations from around the province was appreciated by most. Many of the organizations have small budgets for Education/Conferences so to have a relatively inexpensive conference to attend in the province was important.

Information Sharing

One of the main successes of Food Secure Saskatchewan was their network model as it has served as a central hub where people can go to disseminate or acquire information. When issues come up in their respective organizations, members can send information out to the group to find a solution. The COVID-19 pandemic was an example of the group coming together to share information. For example, information was shared on safety protocols, group food purchasing, availability of suppliers and modifications to school lunch programs (when schools closed down).

For somebody like me as an executive director, ‘who do I talk to about some of these issues?’ If it's not the network, there really isn't anybody else out there. I don't have nine staff I can talk to, to problem solve. I think that's a success that people have somebody to go to.


Balancing different perspectives and issues

Food security is a complex issue that involves stakeholders from across sectors and types of industry. The representation of Food Secure Saskatchewan is no different – there is a wide variety of members including farmers, child hunger organizations, nutritionists, Indigenous Bands, etc. Each of these organizations or representatives would often have different opinions on what was most important to for the network to address. Additionally, members coming from different sectors would be using specific language (from their specialized fields) which made it more difficult to get on the same page or agree on issues. 

However, through continued dialogue and the building of trusted relationships, the network was able to get over this hump and realize that they were often talking about the same thing but using different language. However, this took continued dialogue and a commitment to keep coming together, especially since some issues were not solved right away (it took years sometimes to get on the same page)

Because we have farmers, and we have food security organizations and we've got nutritionists and often, our challenge was getting the same page. But often we were saying the same things but in different languages… When we thought we were disagreeing, we were often on the same page but we're saying it totally different. Sometimes that was a real challenge for us to get to a point where we realized, “hey we are talking about the same thing. We may be coming at it from a variety of different ways, but it is the same thing” and sometimes that's taken years depending on some of those topics.

Time, Geography, Funding

The commitment of time can be a challenge for many as this network was another responsibility on top of their full-time roles. Additionally, Saskatchewan is a big province with a small population that is spread out. With little provincial or federal money, it limits capacity to bring people together, which was one of the biggest benefits of the network model. 

Additionally, building relationships with government to advocate for food security funding, support and recognition is an ongoing challenge. It takes time and resources and when governments or politicians change, it often requires starting over to brief new staff. Given the interconnectedness of food security issues, members also found themselves advocating across many different ministries including social services, agriculture, education and health which expanded the capacities required by members of Food Secure Saskatchewan.

Lessons Learned

Adapting to Challenges

Working together

Particularly during the pandemic, the ability of the network to work together and support each other was crucial. The pandemic caused disruptions to supply chains, closures and other challenges faced by food security organizations across the province. Support for each other came in the form of sharing safety protocols, doing bulk ordering, and finding creative ways to adapt school lunch programs. Much of this work was done through email – one member would have a challenge, seek support from the group and receive multiple responses. Once new systems were set up to address specific issues, information was shared broader within the network in case there were others who could be involved. Although the pandemic caused many disruptions, it ultimately enhanced the network’s ability to work together and develop new relationships that will last beyond the pandemic.


Utilizing technology such as online conferencing has been one mechanism to address some of the challenges faced by the pandemic but also the large geography of the province. Technology expands the reach to geographical areas or organizations that don’t have as much funding or infrastructure. In previous years, they’d have to rely on grants to pay for transportation for people from around the province to attend conferences and take advantage of knowledge exchange opportunities. The recent technical advances (conference and video calls) allow them to do a lot more than what was done in the past.

The Future

With the departure of many of the original members and champions of the network, a gap has formed that has contributed to decreased activity over the last few years. While the membership numbers have remained relatively stable, new members don’t have the contextual history and haven’t been able to step into leadership roles within the group. Currently Food Secure Saskatchewan is running with low capacity – there is one Chair who takes on the responsibility of sending emails and sharing information with the wider network. There is currently no succession plan in place for when the current Chair moves on. 

However, maintenance of the network model is relatively simple. It requires set up of a conference call once per month to allow people to continue connect on certain issues. Additionally, the sharing of information has become relatively ad hoc which enables anyone to step in to ask for support or share relevant information. 

For other communities and provinces looking to address food security, creating a network is a really good place to start, and can be relatively cost efficient. It allows people to connect and come together to share information, learn from each other and collectively address issues. Having a broad network comes with challenges in being able to narrow in on a specific focus and address those issues. However, for groups looking at wider systemic approaches with multi-sector representation, sub committees or groups can be formed within the network to address specific issues. 

Table of Contents

English (Canada)