COMMUNITY GARDENING AND URBAN FARMING

  • 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: