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  • 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:

  • ADAPTING TO CHANGE: COMMUNITY FOOD ACTION WITH WESTSIDE FOOD COLLABORATIVE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Dignified Food Access, Events, Food Hub, Food Justice, Mobile Markets, News, Poverty Reduction, Westside Food Collaborative // July 21, 2020

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


    Hillary Ko (she, her, hers) is Chinese-Canadian and a true Vancouverite. She represents the Westside Food Collaborative, which serves a very large area in Vancouver. Often, the West side is seen as an affluent area but parts of these communities do experience food insecurity and is often unseen or unaddressed.

    The Westside Food Collaborative is a Neighbourhood Food Network of community members and organizations working in just and sustainable food systems on Vancouver’s Westside, based out of Kitsilano Neighbourhood House.

    An image that says Celebrate Community Food Action, with photos of food

    This Network seeks to bring key organizations and community members to the table in order to understand barriers to food access in Vancouver’s Westside and to work towards addressing these barriers.

    For Hillary, community development and empowerment is what’s most important about working with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.

    “It is amazing to see the community come together to support each other and work together to address needs of the vulnerable population,” says Hillary. “I want to continue building connections and getting different partners to support each other in addressing the barriers to food security.”

    Food insecurity is one of the greatest needs in Vancouver that the Westside Food Collaborative strives to address, and typically the Network engages in gardening, food distribution, community meals, and cooking and nutrition workshops. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the network’s ability to respond to increasing needs.

    An outdoor image of Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, showing tables filled with grocery bags.

    When public gatherings were no longer possible, the Network began engaging in food recovery and offering a weekly emergency food response program. “Many have told us that our service of providing one hot meal and one large grocery bag helps them get through the week,” says Hillary. “It’s also the only time some people get out of their house and connect with other neighbours.”

    From a young age, Hillary understood the power of food, and this informs her work to support community food security.

    “Food has always been a big part of my life,” she says. “My best memories about food are when I learned how to make traditional Cantonese dishes with my grandma and when I invite friends and family over to make and eat food together.”

    An image of a person forming a large batch of Chinese dumplings.

    Challenges & Goals

    The greatest challenges facing neighbours of the Westside Food Collaborative are isolation and lack of community. Many people, especially seniors, are experiencing isolation and depression during this time. “We cannot reopen programs any time soon due to COVID measures,” Hillary explains, “but in the future, this is something that the Network will try to address by using food as the vehicle for community building.”

    The Westside Food Collaborative hopes to connect with organizations and businesses in the area that are providing services during COVID-19 and work together towards a more coordinated approach to community emergency responses.

    Learn more about Westside Food Collaborative and celebrate community food action: