Empowering government to build better resident and employee experiences and get more value out of their civic engagement technology.

Learn More
  • Success Story
  • The City of Burlington

How Burlington, Ontario Used Food to Engage its Diverse Community


The Burlington, Ontario government created Food for Feedback to connect with different community populations, including multi-cultural residents, young families, teens, and persons with disabilities. In this annual community event, residents receive a free meal in exchange for their feedback on government programs and get introduced to Get Involved Burlington, the city’s online engagement portal through EngagementHQ, for continued discussion.

"With a range of ages, diverse backgrounds, and ethnicities, we wanted to reach out to everyone in our community, so they felt welcome and included."
Michelle Dwyer, Burlington Manager of Engagement and Volunteers


  • 2,000+ attendees to Food for Feedback
  • 100+ new portal registrations each event
  • 50,000 responses to fireworks survey
  • Increased inclusivity and diversity of engagement
Must have Granicus Solutions

Bringing a Community Together

How can you make a great idea even better?

That was the task for Burlington, Ontario, a city of 185,000 people equidistant from Toronto and Niagara Falls. The town struck gold with its annual Food for Feedback event, where citizens received free meals from local food trucks in exchange for input on local government programs.

The idea was simple: If you feed them, they will come.

While the event succeeded, Burlington continually sought ways to engage its community further, especially for the one out of every five residents for whom English is a second language.


An Open Place for Communication

Burlington turned to EngagementHQ by Granicus to organize and promote Food for Feedback. Residents could receive information on the portal in various ways, including informational pages in more than 13 languages.

"We love the analytics EngagementHQ provides. Our council members can see how often people viewed an issue or downloaded a document. It showed how people care what happens in their town."
Michelle Dwyer, Burlington Manager of Engagement and Volunteers

“With a range of ages, diverse backgrounds, and ethnicities, we wanted to reach out to everyone in our community, so they felt welcome and included,” said Michelle Dwyer, Burlington manager of engagement and volunteers. “Food resonates across all cultures. Feeding someone is a sign of welcoming and respect, and we wanted everyone to know they were welcome to contribute, even if new to the community.”

The city also ensured that on-site food trucks can accommodate dietary needs, such as vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and halal options. There was also an audit to ensure all event areas were accessible for those with any mobility issues.

A playground near the event provided parents and guardians additional time and opportunities to share feedback with staff and government leadership.

“EngagementHQ was also a touch point for other city services and programs,” she added. “It was our way to include everyone in our city.”

The City of Burlington’s Food for Feedback efforts received 1st place in the Changemaker category in the 2023 Granicus Digital Government Awards.


A Heated Debate Over …Fireworks?

The Food for Feedback initiative proved highly successful in fostering greater inclusivity and diversity in engagement efforts. In 2023, more than 2,000 people attended, and each event brings in over 100 new registrants to the EngagementHQ portal.

The portal also continues to take on a life of its own. As Dwyer explains, a relatively mundane topic can sometimes spark a heated debate. A discussion over the use of fireworks—in particular, when residents could legally set off fireworks in their neighborhood—exploded with 50,000 responses.

“It was split 50-50,” Dwyer said. “We never expected fireworks to become such a polarizing topic, but residents could voice their opinion.”

Ultimately, the feedback led to a compromise: Fireworks on Canada Day and Victoria Day only.

The portal also became popular to discuss more familiar topics, such as the annual budget.