This is the seventh in a series of blog posts featuring each of our Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.
Laura Gair (she, her, hers) has worked with South Vancouver Neighbourhood House for four years as the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinator. Laura is a second generation Canadian visitor on these lands, with Scottish, German, English and Hungarian roots. She is a mother of one adorable toddler. Laura has lived in Vancouver since 2008, after moving from the farm belt in Southwestern Ontario where she learned from her grandmother to always have extra food ready for friends and visitors.
South Vancouver Food Network (SVFN) is an active collaboration of community members and organizations working to enhance health and wellbeing in three neighbourhoods through the power of good food. They support and coordinate local food security initiatives and offer healthy, dignified, community-based food programs. The Network aims to create a more sustainable and just food system in the city.
SVFN covers the largest footprint in the city, with boundaries encompassing the three neighbourhoods of Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview and Killarney. These neighbourhoods make up one-fifth of the land in the City of Vancouver, and are home to 100,000 people. South Vancouver is the most racialized area of Vancouver, with 80% of people identified visible minorities and 68.6% of people speaking first languages other than English (compared to 46% in Vancouver overall).
Despite representing such a large area of Vancouver, these neighbourhoods are underserved and underrepresented when it comes to community services. With such a large geographic area, each neighbourhood is unique and the communities experience different challenges. The Network’s neighbourhoods have a “commuter culture,” where community members have had to travel to other neighbourhoods to access programs and resources. SVFN works to change that by building more food assets to create stronger community and personal resilience, while also developing stronger social connections in each neighbourhood. Since the opening of Marpole Neighbourhood House inn 2019, they now partner with organizations in the Marpole-Oakridge area.
South Vancouver Food Network is known for its gardening and urban farming programs and workshops, as well as community meals, food distribution, and cooking and nutrition workshops.
Many pre-existing programs were put on hold to COVID-19 and the need for physical distancing. In place of regular programs, they began focusing on emergency food distribution in early March.
Emergency Food Distribution
South Vancouver Neighbourhood House established a temporary emergency food distribution program along with Marpole Neighbourhood House. This initiative replaced the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s Food Hub model, which was cancelled around the onset of COVID-19. The emergency food distribution response met urgent needs for seniors and community members with compromised health who felt unsafe travelling beyond their neighbourhood to access other food supports.
Some of the Network’s emergency food response efforts have included:
• Safe Seniors, Strong Communities: Cooking frozen prepared meals for delivery to seniors who are isolating
• Cooking programs with seniors by phone, including guided cooking classes and recipe sharing through the South Vancouver Adult Day Program
• Grocery gift card distribution, and referring families for South Vancouver Neighbourhood House hamper deliveries and grocery gift cards through Vancouver School Board, BC Housing, South Vancouver Family Place (SVFP) and Fresh Roots Urban Farm
• Distributing bagged meals to go, in place of indoor community meals at Faith Fellowship Baptist Church, St. Augustine’s Church and Ross Temple. St. Augustine’s Church will reopen and resume Greater Vancouver Food Bank distribution in September.
Growing Food Support
SVNH, SVFN and partner organizations are continuing food support efforts through the following programs:
• “Hi Neighbour” food hamper delivery for families, along with South Vancouver Family Place (SVFP) and Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS)
• “Safe Seniors Strong Communities” Hub Agency, which includes grocery and medication delivery, friendly phone calls, and delivering frozen prepared meals for seniors ages 65+
Virtual Community Kitchen in partnership with BC Housing
• The newcomer youth garden club grows produce on the Rooftop Community Garden
• Hosting Food for Families Mobile in the Killarney neighbourhood through CityReach Care Society
Gardening Together Safely
These garden and farm programs have been adapted for physical distancing and sanitizing:
• Farmers on 57th, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House & SVNH: Growing Eden Garden Program
• Sunset Community Garden and Fraserlands Community Garden
• Fresh Roots Urban Farm: Farming, youth programs and pop-up markets are all running with new protocols
Needs and Goals
The Network is also working to find long term solutions to replace the emergency food response program. They are making plans to increase the availability of community gardens and garden programs, as well as community meals and community kitchen programs in South Vancouver.
At Marpole Neighbourhood House, they are completing construction of a new garden, in order to begin gardenng programs, and continuing to grow the community lunch events.
The Growing Eden program is adding an online virtual gardening and cooking component to the project.
Fresh Roots Urban farm is continuing the SOYL program, as well as markets with new safety protocols.
Across the board, the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network is working with community partners toward poverty reduction goals and advocating for the needs of our diverse community. A positive side effect from COVID-19 is that there is now attention being paid to the inequity in resource distribution across Vancouver. It is time for our neighbourhoods and the people who live in them to be heard.
Learn more, contribute, and celebrate community food action with South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network: