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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.”
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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
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:
Founded in 2002, Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice (formerly known as the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute) is a neighbourhood food network that facilitates learning, leadership, and networking for local residents around food sharing, organic growing, food justice, food sovereignty, and nutrition to increase individual, family, and community capacity to attain food security.
Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice focuses on community meals, cooking and nutrition workshops, gardening and urban farming—including workshops and seed-saving. For this food network team, food justice advocacy is an essential aspect of the work.
“We really try to integrate an approach in all of our programs that is holistically rooted in community development-based, anti-oppressive, and justice-oriented frameworks.” “Our work includes expanding beyond just service-provision based work and trying to focus also on advocacy and solidarity work in food justice.”
Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice
The pandemic hasn’t stopped the network team from doing good work, like addressing social isolation, lessened nutrition, and food security due to barriers of income, race, language, age, citizenship status.
Once the COVID-19 restrictions came into place, the network adapted quickly. Resources and staff time dedicated to community kitchens and regular weekly community meal programs have now been redirected to producing frozen meals for weekly emergency food response distribution.
The network’s urban agriculture programming—including gardening skills workshops—initially shifted to being delivered in online workshop formats like Zoom and through the creation of digital content like pre-recorded videos. Now, some physically distanced in-person urban agriculture activities are resuming on-site at garden spaces.
“We use the universal experience of food as a connecting point to bring people together for community development.”
Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice
The Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice team aims to continue developing the existing interest—already demonstrated by our community members—in civic engagement, advocacy, and community dialogue around food justice and related issues.
Learn more about Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, get involved, and celebrate community food action:
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.
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.
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.”
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:
Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are proud and grateful to have been chosen as a runner-up for the 2020 Roger Inman Memorial Award. This annual award is given by CCEC Credit Union in recognition of a project that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of the community. CCEC is committed to keeping our money and resources working in our community by actively supporting and promoting the development of strong, successful community businesses, projects and organizations.
The award honours the memory of Roger Inman, a past president of CCEC, whose contributions to the wellbeing of the credit union were numerous. Roger became a member when CCEC first opened in 1976 and shortly after began serving as a volunteer teller. He was also a member of the credit committee, and later joined the Board of Directors where he served as co-chair and spearheaded the newsletter. A warm lovable man, Roger always contributed his time, insights, and humour to the many community initiatives with which he was involved. He was also active in local politics where his keen mind and natural optimism were always appreciated. Through this award, we acknowledge his devotion to community economic development, his commitment to his ideals and his generosity in spirit.
Thank you CCEC and congratulations to the 2020 winner – The Peoples
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!
This September marks the 10th annual Sustenance Festival, a food, art & culture celebration which brings community groups, artists, and advocates together who use food and art to cultivate dialogue, celebrate traditions, and push for social change.
The 2019 Sustenance Festival program features the Feasting for Change exhibit at Roundhouse Community Centre. Centring Indigenous perspectives and curated by Dawn Morrison of Wild Salmon Caravan, this art exhibit explores themes of regeneration in relation to wild salmon and holistic perspectives on food, culture, and healing.
Last week, the Sustenance Festival launch and Feasting For Change exhibit opening followed traditional Coast Salish protocol to honour the work of contributing artists, community groups, and matriarchs from Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. Volunteers served food by Kurdish- and Ugandan-Canadian women as guests appreciated drumming led by Sto:lo elder Eddie Gardner and original music by local singer-songwriter Ava Caldwell.
The exhibit gallery also features work from the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks. It highlights the VNFN’s 25-year history of community food initiatives and stories of change from people in our local communities.
In recent years, Sustenance Festival has worked hard to uplift issues of food justice which persist locally and impact a wide range of marginalized communities in Vancouver. Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks’ work brings an important neighbourhood-focus to local food issues.
This year, Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks events at Sustenance include:
Sustenance Festival runs from September through October. All programming is free or low-cost and led by non-profit community groups and community centres. See the full program of events at sustenancefestival.ca
Sustenance Festival is an annual initiative of the Arts, Culture & Engagement team at the Vancouver Parks Board which features food, art, and culture events such as family-friendly celebrations, workshops, and dialogues. This festival centers community food traditions alongside artists, activists, community groups, and social service organizations across the City of Vancouver.
Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks (VNFNs) are looking to hire a highly-organized individual with a passion for food justice and community development.
This self-directed individual will organize and facilitate a community of practice for food security professionals across Vancouver.
This role will support the primary organizational objectives of 1) Operations and Administration, 2) Communications, and 3) Financial sustainability.
Type of position: Part-time position at 16 hours/week. Flexible schedule and potential for increased hours. 1-year contract to start, with option for extension. Start date: Early October 2019 Compensation: $28.00 per hour Location: Vancouver-based work and remote work from home
Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are composed of 15 food security organizations and social service agencies across Vancouver who gather bi-monthly to share best practices. Members of the VNFNs collaborate on community-based food initiatives and programs to support food access and resilience at the neighbourhood level. With a unified voice, VNFNs advocate for food justice through a poverty reduction lens.
Inaugural impact report from Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks highlights city-wide food security efforts in 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 26, 2019
VANCOUVER, BC– Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks provided affordable meals, food skills programs, and social connections to over 30,000 people in 2018, as indicated in their inaugural impact report.
“This report has been a long
time coming,” says community food programmer Ian Marcuse from Grandview
Woodland Food Connection at Britannia Community Centre. “We have seen a significant
spike in use of our food services in recent years. With the rising cost of rent and food, families are
forced to cut costs wherever possible.
This impact report from the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks provides crucial
data on food access and services city-wide.”
Combining the need for affordable
meals with the need for more social spaces in Vancouver, Vancouver Food
Networks served more than 109,000 community meals in 2018, according to the report. On average, these meals cost between
$3.00 to $7.00 and offered an affordable menu of seasonal and cultural home-style
Beyond serving meals, the
report indicates Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks coordinated over 1,100 skill-building
workshops, which generate lasting effects on community members’ well being: “I have grown because I cook
better…when you cook and it’s really good and healthy, you feel proud and you
get the courage to try new things,” shares a workshop participant from Mount
Pleasant Food Network.
Read the full impact report for more details on Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network’s city-wide initiatives in 2018, including fresh food distribution, seasonal celebrations, community and school gardens, and more.
Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks
are made up of 15 community organizations committed to
promoting food security across Vancouver. Based on the belief that all members
of society have the right to quality food, they are committed to food equity
and access, education, skill building, and advocacy, particularly for community
members who struggle economically.