COMMUNITY GARDENING AND URBAN FARMING

  • 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