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.
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: