NEWS

  • 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 RENFREW COLLINGWOOD FOOD JUSTICE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Advocacy, Dignified Food Access, Food Justice, Neighbourhood Food Networks, News, Poverty Reduction, Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice // July 30, 2020

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


    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.

    A banner of several small images showing people engaged in food-related activities, along with the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute logo

    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: