CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH HASTINGS-SUNRISE COMMUNITY FOOD NETWORK

  • AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Hub, Food Justice, Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Mobile Markets, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Poverty Reduction

    This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring each of our Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.

    Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN) started nine years ago with greenhouse tomatoes from Gipanda farms. Farm Folk City Folk received some grants for a food security initiative, and approached organizations in Hastings-Sunrise to collaborate. Before long, there were more fresh vegetables from Van Whole produce, and the Kiwassa Neighbourhood House van helped deliver produce on Tuesdays. A food security family was started in the neighbourhood, and over the years it has grown and expanded. 

    HSCFN is a collective of five social services organizations in Northeast Vancouver, this Network includes Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, CityReach Care Society, Thunderbird Community Centre, and Seasons of Food Vancouver at the Hastings Community Centre. 

    Jars of canned food on a countertop

    Blain Butyniec (he, him), who has worked as Kiwassa’s Food Programs Coordinator for the past 4.5 years and Eva Aboud (she, her) who has worked at Frog Hollow as a Food Security and Outreach Coordinator for 15 years, have been co-coordinators for the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN) for 1.5 years. Their colleague Sharon Dong (she, her) from CityReach Care Society was born and raised in East Vancouver, and has been with CityReach since COVID as the Director for Food for Families. Food rescue from Van Whole produce is one of the pieces at the centre of collaboration between these three agencies

    At the moment, Thunderbird Community Centre and Seasons of Food Vancouver aren’t able to operate due to limitations during COVID, but the collaboration and relationships all five organizations have built together contribute to the overall resilience of this Network. While many Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are hosted by one neighbourhood house, a key benefit of HSCFN is the ability to share ideas across several organizations and respond quickly to unique community needs. Eva notes that the families in Hastings-Sunrise are also very resourceful.

    At work with the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network

    Before COVID-19, the Network focused collectively on gardening, including workshops about urban farming, cooking and nutrition.There were community meals and food markets in place, as well as food recovery and distribution efforts. An emphasis on food justice advocacy, Indigenous land sovereignty, and dignified access to food are hallmarks of the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network.

    Kiwassa Neighbourhood House

    Kiwassa Neighbourhood House’s food program provides dignified access to food while building a more food secure community. Before COVID, they were offering diverse community kitchens, gardening and cooking workshops, and partnering with other organizations to redistribute food. The Kiwassa kitchen also provided free and low-cost, nutritious meals, with opportunities for students and volunteers to engage with others while learning or sharing skills. In addition, the Kiwassa kitchen continued providing meals and snacks for children’s summer camps, and caters for the daycare program this fall.

    An image of children holding up drawings of the sun, at a table with colourful sun-shaped pancakes

    Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House

    Eva shares that she mailed seeds out to the families in her programs, and emailed them with the steps to encourage everyone to try growing food. Many families followed up with photos of their thriving gardens!

    “I feel very passionate about my work and as a facilitator of positive change I feel it’s my purpose and lifelong journey to help create positive change in guiding others to lead themselves to a sustainable life of empowerment and visions  of a healthy future,” says Eva.

    “As a parent in a low-income family, and then a single mom raising two daughters, I know what it’s like to try to put the best food on the table to raise a healthy family on very little money. The more I learn about how to be self-sufficient the more I want to help others to be self-sufficient so they attain the tools and resources to live a healthier life for them and their children with proudness and confidence.”

    An image of seed packets in unsealed envelopes, ready to be sent

    CityReach Care Society

    CityReach Care Society is a community-based organization that is focused on families as well as the environment. One of the key programs is Food for Families (FFF) which is a free, nutritious food bank for low-income households serving fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein. Since COVID, FFF has grown from 100 to 800 hampers per week . In addition, the program has adapted to support guests better—from COVID compliance to daily Meals to Go, and delivery of hampers to vulnerable individuals. In addition to diverting good food from landfills and reducing carbon emissions, CityReach is keeping Bees which are essential to urban food production.

    From Food Hubs to home deliveries

    As the pandemic began affecting communities, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank ceased its distributed Food Hub services—which hosted at many locations in neighbourhoods throughout the city—limiting safe and dignified access to food for neighbours. 

    Kiwassa began delivering food hampers to folks in need. It quickly grew from one to three days, serving 200 households weekly from the West End of Vancouver, all the way out to Port Coquitlam and South Vancouver, and up to the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood in Northeast Vancouver. 

    At this time, there are 90 households receiving food hampers from Kiwassa, including those who used to attend the community Food Hub supported by the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, as well as participants involved in Kiwassa’s programs, and neighbours who heard about the service through word of mouth. Similarly, Saige Community Food Bank, an organization that ran twice monthly no barrier food banks providing food for trans, Two Spirit, gender diverse folks, as well as many others that may struggle in accessing regular food banks, also created a free home hamper delivery service. They also started holding online community kitchens, delivering the food items to participants the night before.

    An image of two women smiling while packing boxes full of fresh, brightly coloured produce

    For both Kiwassa and Saige their food hamper delivery programs serve as a critical point of contact for many of the other programs at Kiwassa. Program coordinators took on food hamper delivery, which allowed them to safely make weekly visits to their program participants who would otherwise have been further isolated when community gathering places closed down. Since seniors faced the greatest risks to their health, while also being housebound, Kiwassa’s food program collaborates closely with the seniors program. 

    Together, they publish a newsletter for all hamper recipients, including recipe ideas for that week’s hamper contents, additional resources available in the community, online workshops, activities like colouring and mindfulness exercises, as well as neighbourhood walks. They also include articles about homelessness, Indigenous solidarity, and resisting anti-Black and anti-Asian racism. They have also been able to distribute donated books from the library and art supplies to children and youth, as well as BINGO cards to seniors for the online games they started hosting.

    What Neighbours are Saying

    “Thank you soo much! I cannot tell you how much our members appreciate the grocery hampers. Our folks have been drastically impacted by COVID and access to food has been a lifesaver, so thank you.”

    PACE Society (a CityReach partner)

    “I am extremely grateful and appreciative. The salmon you included is truly a treat and not something I expected but very much appreciated.”

    NM, a CityReach guest who receives a modified hamper suitable for her illness says

    While local grassroots organizations have been delivering services to community members, there has been support from larger organizations linked to government funding. Eva says the volunteers she received from United Way are remarkable, and she is grateful for those volunteers who continue to help deliver emergency food to families each week.

    Future Goals

    The Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network seeks to build deeper collaboration amongst its partner agencies, and grow local active involvement in the Network. The food rescue project has been further developed during the pandemic. They have coordinated some bulk purchasing and redistribution of food among HSCFN agencies as well as partnering with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network organizations. This initiative has provided the opportunity to collaborate a bit across networks, particularly through more-frequent interagency meetings, which has helped people doing this front-line labour to feel less isolated and support one another’s work.

    Before COVID, the Network was planning community workshops across its five agencies that would be jointly presented and promoted. Some workshops would be repeated at each agency, while others would follow a theme customized for each location, to encourage some cross-pollination as people visit several locations in the neighbourhood. 

    Kiwassa is about to start running a weekly community food market, as part of the Community Food Centres Canada ‘Market Greens’ project. A big feature of this will be bringing affordable produce to neighbours, with an additional 40 families receiving further subsidies each year of the 2 year program. Starting September 29, the market runs Wednesdays from 2-5pm at Pandora Park. In partnership with Vines Art Festival who currently program the park’s field house, they aim to collaborate on a monthly market that will host more vendors and performances.

    Kiwassa is working with REFARMERS to develop a new communal garden site in Hastings-Sunrise. Unlike community gardens where people have individual plots, communal gardens are collectively maintained, creating deeper opportunities for community-building.

    Sharon mentions the Network will need resourcing, non-emergency food donations and volunteers to sustain them post-COVID. The focus should shift from  emergency response to sustainability to support the community, because the inequitable impacts of COVID will be felt for years.

    Learn more, contribute and celebrate community food action with Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network:

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