COMMUNITY GARDENING AND URBAN FARMING

  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH MOUNT PLEASANT FOOD NETWORK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Job Opportunities, Mount Pleasant Food Network, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Poverty Reduction // September 15, 2020

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


    The Mount Pleasant Food Network (MPFN) is dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of all residents living in Mount Pleasant and nearby neighbourhoods by promoting an accessible, just and sustainable food system for our community. Administered by Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, this Network plays an important role in community development especially relating to food security and food justice issues.

    A summertime image of the Queen Alexandra School garden

    The Mount Food Network has a focus on building value in the food justice movement and supporting the work of individuals and groups who are experts in this field. Over the past seven years, outgoing Network Coordinator and Indigenous community developer and planner Jolene Andrew (Git’xsan, Wit’suwet’in) has been an advisor on Indigenous food sovereignty issues.  

    Currently the network is seeking a new Network Coordinator (part-time) to continue Jolene’s wonderful work and bring new energy and ideas to the network. Please inquire at info@mpnh.org.

    The Network’s activities typically include Indigenous land sovereignty advocacy and action through the Queen Alexandra Elementary School garden, and the Resurfacing History Project, hosted by Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House. The school garden has been part of the Indigenous Foodscapes project by FarmToSchool BC and the Vancouver School Board, and seed saving practices are taught for food system resiliency. 

    Before COVID, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House and the Food Network served weekly community meals and frequently hosted cooking and nutrition workshops for participants of all ages. Food recovery and distribution has been one of many supports offered to low-income participants. 

    An image of someone's hands touching the leaves of a plant

    Since COVID, many activities have shifted to an online format. The Food Network Coordinator participates in many groups and committees, with a COVID response lens from the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood view. This includes Climate Equity at the City of Vancouver and the Food Policy Council. 

    Some of the typical Neighbourhood House programming has shifted toward online cooking workshops, including a monthly youth cooking club using Zoom. While the Mount Pleasant Food Network typically gathers with many community organizations, the pandemic has prevented a gathering of the full network, but outdoor activities at the garden have continued. 

    Direct services have been shifted toward emergency food response, and supplying take-home meals and food boxes to seniors. 

    An image of people harvesting garlic in the fall

    Goals

    In the autumn of 2019, the Mount Pleasant Food Network was able to have some planning done to inform the future and ongoing work priorities, although these plans have been put on pause. The Food Network’s priorities are to work on communication to grow the network, and focus on collaboration and connecting across networks to support new and developing initiatives. They would also like to directly support some initiatives like starting new projects.  

    In order to build capacity across the Network, and to share the work and draw on additional resources, the Mount Pleasant Food Network is moving toward a cohesive and collaborative inter-agency approach to supporting its activities.

    Learn more, contribute and celebrate community food action with Mount Pleasant Food Network:

  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH SOUTH VANCOUVER NEIGHBOURHOOD FOOD NETWORK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Mobile Markets, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Poverty Reduction, South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network // September 8, 2020

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


    Laura Gair (she, her, hers) has worked with South Vancouver Neighbourhood House for four years as the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinator. Laura is a second generation Canadian visitor on these lands, with Scottish, German, English and Hungarian roots. She is a mother of one adorable toddler. Laura has lived in Vancouver since 2008, after moving from the farm belt in Southwestern Ontario where she learned from her grandmother to always have extra food ready for friends and visitors.

    South Vancouver Food Network (SVFN) is an active collaboration of community members and organizations working to enhance health and wellbeing in three neighbourhoods through the power of good food. They support and coordinate local food security initiatives and offer healthy, dignified, community-based food programs. The Network aims to create a more sustainable and just food system in the city. 

    An image of four people smiling and working together at a kitchen counter full of food

    SVFN covers the largest footprint in the city, with boundaries encompassing the three neighbourhoods of Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview and Killarney. These neighbourhoods make up one-fifth of the land in the City of Vancouver, and are home to 100,000 people. South Vancouver is the most racialized area of Vancouver, with 80% of people identified visible minorities and 68.6% of people speaking first languages other than English (compared to 46% in Vancouver overall).  

    Despite representing such a large area of Vancouver, these neighbourhoods are underserved and underrepresented when it comes to community services. With such a large geographic area, each neighbourhood is unique and the communities experience different challenges. The Network’s neighbourhoods have a “commuter culture,” where community members have had to travel to other neighbourhoods to access programs and resources. SVFN works to change that by building more food assets to create stronger community and personal resilience, while also developing stronger social connections in each neighbourhood. Since the opening of Marpole Neighbourhood House inn 2019, they now partner with organizations in the Marpole-Oakridge area.

    An outdoor image of a smiling adult teaching children to use a cider press

    South Vancouver Food Network is known for its gardening and urban farming programs and workshops, as well as community meals, food distribution, and cooking and nutrition workshops. 

    Many pre-existing programs were put on hold to COVID-19 and the need for physical distancing. In place of regular programs, they began focusing on emergency food distribution in early March. 

    Emergency Food Distribution

    South Vancouver Neighbourhood House established a temporary emergency food distribution program along with Marpole Neighbourhood House. This initiative replaced the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s Food Hub model, which was cancelled around the onset of COVID-19. The emergency food distribution response met urgent needs for seniors and community members with compromised health who felt unsafe travelling beyond their neighbourhood to access other food supports.

    Some of the Network’s emergency food response efforts have included: 

    Safe Seniors, Strong Communities: Cooking frozen prepared meals for delivery to seniors who are isolating

    Cooking programs with seniors by phone, including guided cooking classes and recipe sharing through the South Vancouver Adult Day Program

    Grocery gift card distribution, and referring families for South Vancouver Neighbourhood House hamper deliveries and grocery gift cards through Vancouver School Board, BC Housing, South Vancouver Family Place (SVFP) and Fresh Roots Urban Farm

    Distributing bagged meals to go, in place of indoor community meals at Faith Fellowship Baptist Church, St. Augustine’s Church and Ross Temple. St. Augustine’s Church will reopen and resume Greater Vancouver Food Bank distribution in September.

    Growing Food Support

    SVNH, SVFN and partner organizations are continuing food support efforts through the following programs:

    “Hi Neighbour” food hamper delivery for families, along with South Vancouver Family Place (SVFP) and Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS)

    “Safe Seniors Strong Communities” Hub Agency, which includes grocery and medication delivery, friendly phone calls, and delivering frozen prepared meals for seniors ages 65+

    Virtual Community Kitchen in partnership with BC Housing

    The newcomer youth garden club grows produce on the Rooftop Community Garden

    Hosting Food for Families Mobile in the Killarney neighbourhood through CityReach Care Society

    Gardening Together Safely

    These garden and farm programs have been adapted for physical distancing and sanitizing:

    Farmers on 57th, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House & SVNH: Growing Eden Garden Program

    Sunset Community Garden and Fraserlands Community Garden

    Fresh Roots Urban Farm: Farming, youth programs and pop-up markets are all running with new protocols

    An image of people gathering under tents at an outdoor market

    Needs and Goals

    The Network is also working to find long term solutions to replace the emergency food response program. They are making plans to increase the availability of community gardens and garden programs, as well as community meals and community kitchen programs in South Vancouver.  

    At Marpole Neighbourhood House, they are completing construction of a new garden, in order to begin gardenng programs, and continuing to grow the community lunch events.

    The Growing Eden program is adding an online virtual gardening and cooking component to the project.

    Fresh Roots Urban farm is continuing the SOYL program, as well as markets with new safety protocols.

    Across the board, the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network is working with community partners toward poverty reduction goals and advocating for the needs of our diverse community. A positive side effect from COVID-19 is that there is now attention being paid to the inequity in resource distribution across Vancouver.  It is time for our neighbourhoods and the people who live in them to be heard.

    Learn more, contribute, and celebrate community food action with South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network:

  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH STRATHCONA COMMUNITY CENTRE FOOD SECURITY PROGRAM

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Neighbourhood Food Networks, News, Poverty Reduction, Strathcona Community Centre // September 3, 2020

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


    Khalid Jamal (he, him, his) has been the Food Network Coordinator for the Strathcona Community Centre Food Security Program for about a year. His own early memories of food inform his passion for feeding the neighbourhood.

    “My mum had a big wooden spoon that she would only use when making big meals. To me, that spoon represents love.”

    An image of a wooden spoon with a heart carved into the centre

    The Strathcona Community Centre has been known as a place where the community can meet, share thoughts, explore new and different avenues of recreation, socialize and become involved. Being located in the midst of a unique, warm, and friendly multi-cultural community, the centre attempts to fulfill the many different needs. The centre is a resource which can be drawn upon by all groups and persons for information, ideas and resources. 

    Before COVID-19, its doors were always open to all those wishing to use it. The closure of Strathcona Community Centre during the pandemic led the Network to step up and provide emergency food response. Their weekly backpack program has adapted and expanded to become the Strathcona Emergency Food Hub, where food hampers are distributed each week.

    An image of Strathcona Community Centre

    Before the pandemic, this neighbourhood food Network engaged community members in gardening and urban farming, including workshops for community education and seed-saving as a tool for resilience by making well-adapted varieties of plants available for future gardening seasons. Community meals and workshops for nutrition and cooking were also popular activities for this neighbourhood food network, which participates in food recovery and distribution.

    Khalid mentions that several of the residents living near the space they are distributing food from are really skilled gardeners. “As a group, they’re very diverse in language, culture, age, and physical ability, and they manage to have gardening as their meeting place,” Khalid says. “They connect to share garden tips, seedlings, and soil, intuitively supporting each other as neighbours. While food security, mental health and social isolation are challenges in Strathcona during the pandemic, this group seems to have found a way to cope.”

    An image of cardboard boxes filled with carrots, celery, lettuce and other fresh veggies

    Needs and Goals

    Khalid and his colleagues recognize community needs for social connection as being integral to food security work. Strathcona’s food programs  aim to meet these needs by offering food skills programs, especially for children and seniors, land-based learning, and cultural programming.

    The network’s future goals include more cultural programming, especially for Indigenous and newcomer communities, and stronger collaboration with neighbourhood partners.

    Learn more, contribute, and celebrate community food action with Strathcona Community Centre Food Security Program:

    An image of many cardboard boxes filled with fresh green veggies
  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE NEIGHBOURHOOD HOUSE RIGHT TO FOOD NETWORK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Food Justice, Mobile Markets, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Poverty Reduction // August 13, 2020

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


    The DTES (Downtown Eastside) Neighbourhood House is a secular, grassroots, place-based organization. The House aims to provide leadership, social, recreational and educational opportunities for DTES residents of all ages to meaningfully engage with and contribute to their community in an equitable atmosphere. While understanding food to be an invaluable  communicative instrument, the House uses food as a central component of community building.

    An image of a group of people working together around a table

    Before COVID-19, the DTES Neighbourhood House Right to Food Network was engaged in a number of programs and initiatives, including: urban farming, gardening workshops, seed saving, cooking and nutrition workshops, food recovery and distribution, as well as community meals and food asset mapping with a focus on food justice advocacy.

    Because of COVID-19, a number of the programs at the Neighbourhood House, such as the kids and family programming, as well as the nutritional outreach programming, have been put on hold. The Network is currently focusing on urban farming and bulk buying as part of its emergency food response efforts, and food asset mapping is more important than ever.

    In lieu of the Family Drop-In program, the Neighbourhood House has been putting together food hampers with everyday necessities, including fruits and vegetables, for the families and seniors in the community. Families and seniors are able to come to the House to pick up the hampers once a week. The House has been able to deliver hampers to those who are unable to pick up the hampers on site. 

    The Community Drop-In program has also been adapted, and the team has transitioned to delivering the oatmeal breakfast and lunch through take-out, five days a week. 

    An image of a person hugging an armload of zucchinis in the kitchen

    Challenges & Goals

    There is an abundance of processed foods and food items high in refined sugars in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). Community members often lack access to fresh foods that are nutritionally rich and diverse and those living in Single Room Occupancy housing (SRO’s) do not have the capacity to prepare their own meals. The House’s programming, which is centered around food security, isd driven by a food philosophy that focuses on the provision of nutritionally rich,varied, culturally and religiously appropriate meals to community members who often lack access to nutritious food options. 

    An image of a person chopping food

    The increasing gentrification of the DTES community, which may lead to the displacement of community resources and the loss of community capacity, means there is a need to continue to foster community resiliency and explore how best to strengthen current initiatives. Food security will continue to be the major focus of the DTES Neighbourhood House’s programming, and the Right to Food Network is looking for ways to increase community capacity through community gardening projects and other similar areas.

    Learn more, contribute, and celebrate Community Food Action with the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House Right to Food Network:

  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH CEDAR COTTAGE NEIGHBOURHOOD FOOD NETWORK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Cedar Cottage Food Network, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Mobile Markets, Neighbourhood Food Networks, News // August 11, 2020

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


    Barb Wong (she, her, hers) was born and raised in Vancouver, and comes from Chinese heritage. She recently joined the Cedar Cottage Food Network Society (CCFN) in May 2020. For Barb, building connections with community members and their capacity through food is at the heart of her work with this Network—along with early memories of enjoying food with family.

    “I grew up at the apron strings of my Poh Poh (maternal grandmother). I’d spend most of my days with her in the vegetable garden and kitchen,” says Barb.

    “She prepared a lot of traditional foods including wind-dried duck that she would hang on the clothesline! I had an Easy Bake oven and she and I would spend hours baking little cakes.”

    An image of a person watering a garden next to the sidewalk

    CCFN is an independent, non-profit organization working toward more sustainable and just food systems at the neighbourhood level.  They create space for Kensington-Cedar Cottage residents to take part in different levels of food systems by providing programming, tools, and opportunities for community connections.

    Business-as-usual for the Cedar Cottage Food Network involves urban farming, including gardening and food literacy workshops and seed saving. CCFN has helped meet community needs by providing access to an Indigenous medicine wheel garden and community grown food at Copley Community Orchard, along with access to low cost produce through community pop-up markets.

    Prior to COVID-19, the Network operated two weekly community markets at two partner sites, where fresh produce was sold at cost to community members. To adapt to physical distancing protocols, they’ve changed their model to a pre-packaged produce box that is available to community members and agencies on a sliding scale ($10, $5 or free). Neighbours have been eager to show their appreciation for access to this food during tough times. One person places orders for a neighbour living with Multiple Sclerosis, who would otherwise have difficulty meeting her nutritional needs.

    An image of veggies arranged in the grass to spell Thank You

    What neighbours are saying

    “Thank you to everyone at Cedar Cottage and your amazing staff and volunteers. You all work so hard at making this produce program available to us. Everything is always of incredibly high quality and quantity. You make it affordable for myself, my daughter and granddaughters and my Mom to enjoy this nutritious produce.”

    “You are also saving us all from having to wait in long lineups and then carry the produce home. Transit is difficult to access for them as well. My Mom is 90 years next month and my daughter has two toddler girls, so it’s difficult for them to get out at this time.”

    “I have been using my portion to cook nutritious jars of soups and casseroles that I take to my Mom, so she has easy to reheat-and-eat meals at hand.”

    “So thank you again from all of us to all of you. Your generosity and warm kindness is very much appreciated by us at this time. Bless your hearts.”

    Goals

    In the future, CCFN plans to expand on food literacy programming to include food preparation workshops, food justice advocacy, and broader partnerships with community groups. The Network’s goals include continuing to build community connections through food, and exploring opportunities to build a more sustainable local food network.

    Learn more, contribute and celebrate community food action with Cedar Cottage Food Network:

  • CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH GRANDVIEW WOODLAND FOOD CONNECTION

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Neighbourhood Food Networks, News, Poverty Reduction // August 6, 2020

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


    Ian Marcuse (he, him, his) has been the food network coordinator for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection for 12 years. He is a Jewish/English cis male, born in Vancouver and raised in Calgary. At 59 years old, Ian identifies as “almost an early senior.” He has lived in the Grandview-Woodland community for 33 years

    The Grandview Woodland Food Connection is dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of all residents living in Grandview Woodland by promoting an accessible, just and sustainable food system for the community. As a network, they seek to build capacity through education, information-sharing, and the creation of grassroots initiatives to address food security and justice issues.

    The network has a strong school food garden program, due to the proximity of schools where they work. They have the longest-running coordinator of any Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network, and they are a union site. They have a wide breadth of community food security programming, including a strong Indigenous focus to their work, and are working toward an even-stronger Indigenous food framework in their programming.

    An image of Indigenous herbalist Lori Snyder teaching a group of people in the garden

    For Ian, respect and gratitude toward all the people he works with is paramount, especially with acknowledgment and redress to First Nations. He collaboratatively practices a decolonization and a land-based approach to food security, as well as place-based thinking, while upholding a strong networked model of organizing.

    Ian appreciates meaningful collaborations, including a strong and active advisory committee and support from Britannia Community Services Society as the network’s host agency. The Grandview Woodland Food Connection practices strong coalition-building and positive relationships with the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks, the City of Vancouver and other government institutions.

    Ian came to this work, perhaps in spite of his own personal history of growing up with a lot of processed foods. “That was the 70’s and the health awareness was not as sophisticated back then. There was no organic food movement,” he says. “I am now fairly addicted to sugar and my guilty pleasure is Dairy Queen burgers. On the other hand, my mom was a good cook and so we did eat regular home-cooked meals.”

    “Every Sunday was a full sit-down family dinner, usually with something more fancy, such as a roast beef—I think my father’s favourite, along with my mother’s delicious piroshkis,” Ian recalls.

    “We also grew up with a small veggie garden, which I spent much time tending, so I developed a fairly decent green thumb at an early age.”

    An image of Ian raking the garden, with a big grin on his face

    Business-as-usual for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection involves a whole host of food security activities, including school gardening, food celebrations like the iconic Stone Soup Festival, the Corn Festival, and other special events where meals are provided, along with networking and information-sharing.

    Ian points out that COVID-19 has the network mainly focusing on emergency food provision. The closest program prior was the bulk food program, which was a wholesale food group purchasing program—also known as a good food box program. Ian likes to think of it more as a co-op model, where participants pay a minimal fee to purchase food.

    A banner showing several images of people growing and preparing food together

    Different from a food bank, the bulk food program is affordable and includes a more dignified system of reciprocity, preventing a sense of stigma. As a result, the network developed experience with bulk food procurement, sorting and distribution, which meant they were more prepared for COVID-19 emergency food delivery, with a heavy focus on food procurement. Having pre-existing relationships with businesses allowed them to purchase food at cost. The network’s well-established volunteer base and Britannia’s volunteer programmer helped them quickly implement the emergency food distribution program.

    Ian talks about how people in the community have really stepped up to help with food delivery, whether it be the very generous donations received through a gofundme campaign, along with other donations and the 126 volunteers who have committed time to date. People in the Grandview-Woodland community truly care, which for Ian is the most heartwarming aspect of this work.

    Another important story is that none of this effort, and none of this work just magically happened. It is the culmination of decades of community development work, of strong volunteer engagement, of building and fostering strong relations with partner organizations, businesses, funders, and community members. Most importantly, it is the local community organizations, working from a social development and place-based model that have fostered a culture of connection, caring and resilience that has allowed the network to successfully respond to this pandemic. It did not happen in a vacuum.

    “While we only hear snippets of people’s lives through brief telephone conversations—including many stories of pain and physical suffering from poor health and aging,” Ian says, “we are reminded how difficult these times are for many people.” For Ian, COVID-19 has magnified the underlying complexities and systemic exclusion of the most vulnerable in the community, many of whom are struggling—financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually.”

    “This pandemic has not affected us equitably,” Ian says. “Indigenous, Black, people of colour, women, young workers, trans people, folks with disabilities, and the elderly are more likely to be grappling with poverty, prejudice, stress and systemic discrimination.”

    “But despite all this struggle so many people are letting us know how grateful they are for the food support that they are receiving. Our drivers always tell us how grateful people are when the food is dropped off.”

    Ian Marcuse, Grandview Woodland Food Connection
    An indoor image of person wearing a mask while filling boxes of food

    Challenges & Goals

    Some of the network’s future goals include establishing a neighbourhood-based/scale food hub with direct farm and inner city food distribution linkages. They would like to increase food storage capacity for quality food, like fresh produce. They have also recently become a United Way Local Love Food Hub.

    Ian’s vision includes increasing community organizing and advocacy capacity, with a systems change focus. Ideally, they would like to hire a permanent school gardener programmer to coordinate and expand food growing and educational opportunities with school partners.

    Learn more about Grandview-Woodland Food Connection, get involved, and celebrate community food action:

    Read more about Grandview-Woodland’s emergency food response, community partner and funders, and other initiatives

  • ADAPTING TO CHANGE: COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH LITTLE MOUNTAIN-RILEY PARK NEIGHBOURHOOD FOOD NETWORK

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Food Hub, Food Justice, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Poverty Reduction // July 28, 2020

    This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring each of our Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network coordinators.


    Joanne MacKinnon has represented Little Mountain Neighbourhood House as their Neighbourhood Food Network and—most recently—as the Community Engagement Coordinator for five years. 

    The food security priorities for the Network are the Riley Park Community Garden, a food asset map and educating the community about food insecurity. The Network addresses food security and community involvement, and brings community members closer through participation, education and events. 

    The Community Garden is an inclusive gathering point reflecting the Network’s core visions to improve food security, ecological sustainability and community development. It is a collective public space where people can engage in co-creation, feel a sense of belonging and ownership, and increase networks.

    Long-term sustainability depends on the development of social capital and the intention to grow produce that may be given back to the community. The garden is a David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway project site, and has drip irrigation to educate about water conservation. The shed is a demonstration of a vertical garden and renewable energy. 

    Before COVID-19, Little Mountain Neighbourhood House provided community meals and food for our clients and members, with almost 7,800 meals and snacks provided each month. These included a hot breakfast for preschool children, a hot lunch for a family drop-in program, snacks for after-school and daycare programs, community kitchens for newcomers, Arabic family and single moms drop-in programs. 

    An image of the poster for the Harvest Matchmaking Program

    When the Neighbourhood House closed in March due to COVID-19, the organization secured funding from Community Food Centres Canada to support vulnerable families and community members  with access to food. More than 470 individuals were served by this program—including more than 170 kids under 18, and more than 175 families.  

    Food hampers were delivered by East West Market, serving 31 families and 26 seniors. The Network’s outreach and engagement to community included: 

    > Starting Garden Guides through a partnership with the SPEC, to provide resources and support on how-to grow your own food in small spaces—like containers and on patios—and in backyard and other community gardens; 

    > a BackYards program where residents have requested to have their yards used for food production, for those who need food support; and,

    > Harvest Matchmaking—which includes providing veggie bags with produce from the Network’s gardens, urban farmers and farmers market vendors.

    > The monthly Donation Station at the Riley Park Farmers Market has re-started, and the Network is grateful for the support of the community with funds, and farmers with produce. 

    “The video provided by Garden Guides have truly helped me start my own garden. They are a great tool for any gardening but it was especially helpful to me as a beginner. There are so many knowledgeable people in the community willing to share their skills. Thanks to Riley Park Garden Guides team the information is directly accessible wherever you are.”

    Esme Stumborg, Urban Ethnographic Field School 2020 Cohort

    Phase 2 emergency food access is underway. Little Mountain Neighbourhood House is now a Food Bank Hub and with funding from the United Way as a Local Love Food Hub, and Community Food Centres Canada with grocery gift cards, the Food Network is able to serve 1,925 vulnerable people in the community. 

    I have received food products delivered to me. I am very moved by your compassion towards the elderly such as myself. I would like to express my sincere thanks to you. Wishing you a wonderful and safe summer.

    Thank you card from a neighbour

    Learn more, celebrate community food action, and get involved with Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood Food Network:

    Visit the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House website: https://web2.lmnhs.bc.ca/community-programs

  • CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF COMMUNITY FOOD

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Cedar Cottage Food Network, Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Downtown Eastside Kitchen Tables, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Food Justice, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House, Marpole Oakridge Neighbourhood Food Network, Mount Pleasant Food Network, Neighbourhood Food Networks, News, Poverty Reduction, Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, Reports, South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network, Strathcona Community Centre, Village Vancouver, West End Neighbourhood Food Network, Westside Food Collaborative // November 13, 2019

    As 2019 comes to a close, the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks continues to celebrate 25 years of delivering food programs for our neighbours.

    In 1993, Strathcona Community Centre started their first breakfast program and from there, we have grown to a coalition of 15 Neighbourhood Food Networks across Vancouver to meet the needs of those who face barriers to food security. We have provided food literacy, food skills workshops, community lunches and dinners, community kitchens, gardening programs and have shared many meals and celebrations with our neighbours.

    Thank you so much for joining us on our adventures these past years, and here’s to many more together!

  • URBAN FARMING POH-POHS: CHINESE SENIORS GARDEN PROJECT DEVELOPS SPACE FOR ELDERS’ FOOD SECURITY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Food Justice, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House // April 12, 2019

    Last spring and summer, a group of poh-pohs (Cantonese for “grandmothers “or “elderly women”) gathered every Saturday to grow fresh vegetables in raised beds and pots on the edge of the parking lot at East Hastings Street and Jackson Avenue. Led by local organizer Doris Chow with support from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House and Carnegie Community Centre, this Chinese Seniors Community Garden became a new space for seniors to share skills and stay healthy.

    Group photo of the gardening poh-pohs. Photo by Clare Yow.

    In Fall 2018, the Sun Wah Centre on Keefer Street hosted CHINATOWN GENERATIONS as part of the Heart of the City Festival. This intergenerational community event celebrated Chinatown and its ongoing presence of cultural heritage. It featured a photo exhibition by and of urban farming poh-pohs and their gardening activities in the Downtown Eastside.

    During this event, an attentive audience listened to these seniors share stories from their experiences in this project with the support of English translators. Unlike many other community garden spaces, these elderly Chinese women tended to the garden beds in a communal fashion and shared the harvest. In addition to obtaining produce and new garden skills, they cultivated stronger friendships and community with one another.

    Seniors’ photography shares personal memories

    Upon my arrival to the event, one of the senior participants, Kong Tai (Mrs. Kong) came over to say hello and handed me a small photo album. Mrs. Kong is a well-known elder in the Chinatown community who advocates on issues of housing justice. Despite the language barrier between us, the photos she offered me conveyed her excitement and happiness for the garden project.

    Photos taken by the seniors exhibited at the Sun Wah building for the Heart of the City Festival. Photo by Clare Yow.

    As I flipped through the photo album, the 4×6 prints displayed the unmistakable film aesthetic of a disposable camera. I realized these photos were taken by the poh pohs themselves. The photos captured many bright faces, green growth, and blurred smiles: Mrs. Kong and her friends working in the garden, a group of elderly women displaying large bunches of Asian greens, a harvest of juicy mo gwa (fuzzy melons). These photos captured the seniors’ experiences through their own lens. 

    CHINATOWN GENERATIONS exhibit featured photography by the poh pohs. Photo by Clare Yow

    “No one needs expensive coffee or skateboards, but we need groceries”

    While the Chinese Seniors Community Garden project is joyful, it is also critically important. With increasing gentrification in Chinatown, 55% of grocery stores have closed down or moved out of the neighbourhood within the past decade (according to a report by hua foundation).

    As Mrs. Kong expresses: 

    We had all the grocery stores and herbal stores, cafes, a variety of restaurants to eat dim sum or dinner, which are important social spaces for us Chinese people… [but] there are not even a lot of grocery shops left. 

    A big problem is that the new places opening in Chinatown are either a coffee shop or a nightclub. These places are really expensive and they don’t sell things that we need, nor are they welcoming spaces for us. They are unsuitable to our needs. I never go into these places and I drink my coffee at the Carnegie. No one needs expensive coffee or skateboards, but we need groceries.

    Mrs. Kong 鄺太, Carnegie Community Action Project Report: “We Are Too Poor To Afford Anything
    Guests view the exhibit at Sun Wah. Photo by Clare Yow.

    Seniors often overlooked in Western society

    Beyond the needs of the Chinatown neighbourhood, increasing numbers of seniors are unable to afford to feed themselves. In December, CBC reported that approximately 10,000 seniors—a figure on the rise—access the food bank each month in B.C. As life expectancy increases, food insecurity for seniors is expected to worsen, too. For seniors who live in poverty, B.C.’s disability and welfare rates do not support them to afford healthy foods. Nearly a third of seniors are deemed “at risk” of not getting adequate nutrition from their diets according to Statistics Canada. 

    Poh pohs explain the Chinese Seniors Community Garden to an audience at the Heart of the City Festival. Photo by Clare Yow

    At the intersection of age, class, gender, and race, many elderly Chinese women experience discrimination while navigating social services. For years, service providers in the Downtown Eastside have recognized the need for more culturally-specific services for Chinese seniors.

    “The [seniors] that are healthiest come [to resource centres in the Downtown Eastside] in the biggest groups. They don’t have any education. They can’t read. They can’t write. But the way they’re happy, the way they survive, and part of why they’re healthy, is because they have each other.”

    Deanna Wong, Chinese seniors outreach coordinator in “Old, Alone and Victims of Racism in Downtown Eastside,” The Tyee

    The success of the Chinese Seniors Community Garden is even more meaningful with an understanding of how immigrant seniors’ needs are not adequately met by Western society. The role of friendship and community in this neighbourhood are necessary for survival. Growing gardens may be the vehicle, but this multi-lingual, culturally-focussed project will have lasting impacts through its built relationships.

    A future with food for all, seniors included

    As the gardening season begins again, more local food security projects are continuing to center the needs of seniors in other parts of the city.

    In the coming months, Little Mountain Neighbourhood House will launch “Sowing the Seeds of Inclusivity,” a gardening project at Riley Park Community Garden to specifically support food security for seniors in Little Mountain-Riley Park neighbourhood. In addition to gardening and cooking activities, the project will provide lunches in the garden and shuttle rides to and from the sessions, as a means of increasing accessibility.

    For those who are looking to get involved or are passionate about seniors’ food security, Riley Park Community Garden is currently looking for new members to join their Seniors Engagement Committee for their “Sowing the Seeds of Inclusivity” project.

    The Chinese Seniors Community Garden is also welcoming new volunteers and gardeners, with no prior experience needed. They will host a public re-opening celebration on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 10AM. The group will celebrate the new growing season with snacks and an official lion dance opening.

    The Chinese Seniors Garden will re-open on Saturday, April 20, 2019 with a community celebration. Everyone is welcome to attend.

    As the food movement shifts to prioritize more and more underrepresented voices, like those of our elders, I hope we will continue to listen to elders’ stories and learn from the wisdom they have to offer. I hope projects like the Chinese seniors garden plant the seed for more of Vancouver’s food communities to address seniors’ specific needs to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods with dignity and respect.


    Congratulations to all the poh-poh participants and project facilitators Doris Chow and Simin Sun. This project has been supported by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Carnegie Community Centre, New Horizons for Seniors, and Wing Wing Sausage Co. Limited. Thank you to Clare Yow for permission to use your photos. 

  • SPRING GARDENING WORKSHOPS & EVENTS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Events, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House, Marpole Oakridge Neighbourhood Food Network, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, Seed Library, Uncategorized, Village Vancouver, West End Neighbourhood Food Network // March 12, 2019

    The ground is thawing and soon it’ll be time to start working the soil again.

    Whether you’re a long-time gardener or brand new to growing your own food, the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks have got you covered this spring. Join an upcoming workshop to learn skills on early spring planting, growing Japanese vegetables, making the most of patios or small garden spaces, how to manage pests, and more.

    There are also opportunities across the city to learn new skills, meet other gardeners, and volunteer in your community.

    Read on to learn more.


    March 16, 2019 // Garden Work Party & Early Spring Planting workshop
    50 East 30th Avenue from 12:00-2:00 PM
    Riley Park Community Garden

    Join Riley Park gardeners to prepare the orchard area and for an Early Spring Planting workshop led by Chris Billion of One Love Farm (starts at 1pm). Gardeners will be planting the bed for the new residents of the Modular Housing unit at 37th/ Main. This will be the first of three seed planting workshops this year with Chris to demonstrate year-round tips to grow vegetables.

    For more info contact info@rileyparkgarden.org.


    Mar 17, 2019 // Community Potluck, Seed Library & Workshop – West End
    870 Denman Street from 1:00-2:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Barclay Room

    Join West End Neighbourhood Food Network and Village Vancouver at their monthly family friendly gatherings. Bring something yummy, share some good food and conversation with neighbours. Each month they present a mini-workshop on a different food and/or gardening related topic. The topic for March is amendments and fertilizers for patio and balcony gardeners.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199941


    March 17, 2019 // West End Urban Garden Club meeting
    870 Denman Street from 2:30-3:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Barclay Room

    The featured activity at this March meeting will be making seed packets. Organized by West End Neighbourhood Food Network, a group which shares information, organizes food and gardening workshops, saves and distributes seed, explores possibilities for creating more gardening spaces in the West End, and engages in other food and gardening related activities.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199951


    March 19, 2019 // Community Gardens Networking and Meetup
    3981 Main Street, Vancouver from 6:30-8:30 PM
    Little Mountain Neighbourhood House

    Community garden organizers and members from across Vancouver are invited to get together, share experiences and learn from one other. Join Riley Park Community Garden and Vancouver Parks Board (VPB) to share successes on how to engage community, what is working in your garden, common challenges, and how to work together.

    Reserve your spot here. For more info, contact Joanne at joanne_mackinnon@lmnhs.bc.ca.


    March 21, 2019 // Seed Swap – Collingwood
    5288 Joyce Street from 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Join us for our first seed swap of the year to trade or purchase new seeds and get your garden ready for the spring season! We will accept cash or swaps of seeds from your own garden in exchange for seeds from our collection. Find Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute in the main entrance lobby of Collingwood Neighbourhood House.


    March 21, 2019 // Garden Volunteer Meeting – West End
    1019 Broughton Street at 6:00 PM
    Gordon Neighbourhood House

    The sun’s out and temperatures are warming up, which means the growing season is just around the corner! Interested in getting involved in the gardens at Gordon Neighbourhood House this spring and summer? Come learn about our garden programs at this garden volunteer meeting.

    For more information, email joey@gordonhouse.org


    March 21, 2019 // Start Your Own Seedlings Workshop
    5288 Joyce Street from 6:00-8:00PM
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Save money, and grow a wider variety of garden veggies by starting your own seedlings! This workshop will go over everything you need to know to start your own vegetable seedlings: From what soil to use, to moisture and light requirements, to troubleshooting, and building your own DIY seedling setup.

    Workshop is by Donation $5-$20 – no one turned away for lack of funds. RSVP to foodsecurity@cnh.bc.ca OR 604-435-0323 x. 237


    March 23, 2019 // Seed Library Pop-up – Grandview-Woodland
    1661 Napier Street from 2:00-4:00PM
    Britannia Branch, Vancouver Public Library

    Get your garden going with seeds for vegetables, herbs, and more. Browse the Grandview Woodland Community Seed Library collection, borrow seeds, and check out the library’s resources on seed saving and gardening. Explore their seasonal goodies and discover new seed varieties! Pick up kale, tomato, and other seeds to start this month and next.

    Seed quantities limited; please RSVP to gwcseedlibrary@gmail.com


    March 23, 2019 // Introduction to Organic Gardening workshop
    2929 E. 22nd Ave from 10:00AM-12:00PM
    Renfrew Park Community Centre

    Village Vancouver presents this workshop covering the basics of planning, preparing and starting a food garden. You’ll learn some simple techniques from Rhiannon Johnson for starting plants indoors and in the garden. Be rewarded with the taste of freshly grown veggies this season!

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8388, reference activity #196424


    March 24, 2019 // Introduction to Early Spring Japanese Vegetables workshop
    2690 Larch Street from 1:00-3:00PM
    Kitsilano Community Centre

    Start the gardening season by growing these early spring Japanese vegetables. Easy to grow, nutritionally dense, yet not readily available, make the most of your garden by growing these wonderful veggies. This hands-on Westside Neighbourhood Food Network workshop led by Tonari Gumi Garden Club will focus on five early spring vegetables. Participants will be offered additional seeds and plant starts, along with a sampling of these vegetables in delicious, yet simple Japanese dishes.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-6980, reference activity #200630


    March 26, 2019 // Pests! Who’s Eating My Lettuce & What To Do About It
    870 Denman Street from 6:30-8:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Bidwell Room

    As anyone who’s ever gardened before knows, pests can sometimes be a real problem in the garden (and can be particularly discourging if you’re a new gardener). This Village Vancouver/West End Neighbourhood Food Network Urban Garden Club workshop will be led by Karen Ageson from Farmers on 57th. Participants will learn various ecologically sound techniques for minimizing damage and disappointment caused by pests in your garden.

    Cost is $13. Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199953


    March 27, 2019 // Gardening and Pizza Lunch
    3096 E. Hastings from 1:00-2:00PM
    Hastings Community Centre

    Come together with Hastings-Sunrise gardeners Lauren and Shayna to work in the veggie garden and make pizza with the harvested ingredients. Enjoy healthy snacks created from the abundance of our community garden while chatting about healthy cooking, eating, and gardening.

    Register online or by calling (604) 718-6222, reference activity #204668.


    March 28, 2019 // Growing Plenty of Potatoes
    6810 Main St from 6:30-8:30PM
    Sunset Community Centre

    Learn how and when to plant, grow, harvest, and store potatoes in this Village Vancouver workshop with Rhiannon Johnson. We’ll discuss the best varieties for our area, preparation for planting, feeding, preventing problems, and much more for growing tasty potatoes! Each participant will take potato ‘seed’ home with them.

    Register online or by calling 604-718-6505, reference activity #202822


    March 30, 2019 // Introduction to Organic Gardening workshop
    1318 Cartwright Street from 10:00AM-12:00PM
    False Creek Community Centre

    Village Vancouver presents this workshop covering the basics of planning, preparing and starting a food garden. You’ll learn some simple techniques from Rhiannon Johnson for starting plants indoors and in the garden. Be rewarded with the taste of freshly grown veggies this season!

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8195, reference activity #192441


    April 4 to September 5, 2019 // Gardening Course: Grow Your Own Food
    700 West 57th Ave from 6:30-8:00pm, every 2nd Thursday
    The Farmers on 57th at George Pearson Centre

    Come experience the joy of growing your favourite vegetables under the guidance of professional gardeners and educators, Karen Ageson and Jess Henry. The learning will be hands-on: you will plan, plant and tend your own garden plot, with instruction and support throughout the growing season. Along the way, you’ll learn about garden planning, soil health, seed starting, transplanting, weeding, watering and organic pest control.

    $300 for 12 instructional sessions, supplies and use of a garden plot approx. 4’ x 8.′ We encourage you to garden with your family—registration cost is per plot, not per person. All supplies are included (except gardening gloves) and the food you grow is yours to enjoy.

    Register online to reserve your spot in the course. If you have any questions or concerns, contact karen@farmerson57th.ca or 778-997-3609.


    April 6, 2019 // West End Food Series: Growing Japanese Vegetables Workshop
    1019 Broughton Street from 1:00-3:00pm
    Gordon Neighbourhood House

    Come learn how to grow and cook delicious Japanese vegetables. In this hands-on workshop, Makiko from Tonari Gumi will show us how to grow and cook simple recipes featuring five popular Japanese vegetables and herbs.

    Free to attend. Register online. For more info, contact foodseries@gordonhouse.org or call 604-683-2554.


    April 16, 2019 // Veggie Gardening for Beginners Workshop
    5288 Joyce Street from 6:00-8:00pm
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Always wanted to learn how to grow your food but don’t know where to start? Have you tried but been met with frustration? This beginners-level gardening workshop will go over all the basics you need to know to start growing your own vegetables: Soil health basics, planting (from seed and transplanting), watering, fertility, harvesting, plant health, and troubleshooting. Learn about the most common vegetable plant families and what they need to thrive!

    Free or by donation. RSVP to foodsecurity@cnh.bc.ca to reserve your spot. For more information, call 604 435 0323.


    April 27, 2019 // Seed Library Pop Up
    1661 Napier Street from 2:00-4:00pm
    Britannia Branch, Vancouver Public Library

    Get your garden going with seeds to grow vegetables, herbs, and more with a collection of seasonal goodies and new varieties! At this Grandview Woodland Community Seed Library event, sign up as a seed library member, browse the collection, and borrow seeds. Pick up bean, cucumber, and other seeds to start this and next month.

    Seed quantities limited; please RSVP to gwcseedlibrary@gmail.com or through the Facebook event.


    May 9, 2019 // Indigenous Plant Walk on Wild & Native Medicinals
    1661 Napier Street from 6:30-8:30pm
    Britannia Community Centre, meet in the school garden at the far west end of the parking lot and skateboard courts.

    Lori Snyder is an Indigenous Herbalist, educator, storyteller, artist and Mother. Lori hosts workshops teaching about our living world, how to access its wisdom and to remember our stewardship. Come out and discover how to identify, when best to harvest & sample products in this interactive workshop. Meet in the Britannia school garden, far west end of the parking lot and skateboard courts.

    Cost is $25. Register by calling 604-718-5800.


    May 22, 2019 // Apothecary Garden Plants for Your Well-being workshop
    1661 Napier Street from 6:00-9:00pm
    Britannia Community Centre, Youth room

    Explore the exciting world of the Apothecary Garden and learn about the many herbs and their power to cure, legends and fairy tales to discover; the science of remedies preparation, and administration routes. Participants will have an opportunity to taste herbal teas and make a take-home remedy with medicinal and cosmetic properties to heal minor skin wounds, cuts and burns, sunburn, red and inflamed skin, and dry winter skin!

    Cost is $20. Register online or by calling 604-718-5800.


    June 6, 2019 // Building Healthy Soil workshop
    870 Denman Street from 6:30-8:30pm
    West End Community Centre

    Learn some rudimentary soil biology and the importance of feeding your soil in building a healthy garden with Karen Ageson from Farmers on 57th. You’ll walk away with some basic techniques, and the know how to help your garden thrive.

    $13. Register online or by calling (604) 257-8333, reference activity #213177.