Celebrating community food action with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks

Sarah Kim (she, her) is a first generation Canadian-born woman whose parents immigrated from South Korea. She is the Food Networks Coordinator for Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks (VNFN)—the umbrella network of food networks across the city of Vancouver. 

Having food networks spread across the city allows for decentralized food security development in local neighbourhoods. Every network is agile and adaptable, based on the changing needs and demographics of their communities. Each network is also unique in their programming, leadership and structure.

Coordinating across neighbourhoods during the pandemic

The Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinators have been meeting more frequently since the pandemic started back in March. Normally, coordinators would meet once every two months in person. Since the pandemic started, they were meeting online every two weeks. For Sarah, this has meant facilitating more group conversations and even meetings with the organizations’ stakeholders. 

An image of VNFN Coordinators participating in a Zoom call
A screenshot of Food Network Coordinators from the August 2020 meeting

Sarah has also been coordinating large-scale donations amongst the food networks. This can be a lot of work, remembering who is operating when and available to receive on any day of the week, who has transportation to pick up, and so on. Fortunately, Sarah has strong skills when it comes to managing logistical details. 

Building relationships and advocating for food and income security

Relationships are incredibly important to Sarah, in her work with VNFN and beyond. Building trust and authentic relationships is key to her community development approach in Vancouver neighbourhoods. These efforts take time and energy, and are instrumental to how the group operates as food networks.

“The Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinators have been unseen champions in our city throughout the pandemic,” says Sarah.

“They have been working tirelessly to ensure their neighbours are engaged and have the nutrition they need. Their passion and dedication are unrelenting. The coordinators, their colleagues and teams of volunteers have been lifting this city up and I want to acknowledge this and their work. I am honored to know and work with all of them.”

Advocacy is equally important to Sarah in her work with VNFN. She is currently advocating for: VNFN to receive increased funding supports from the City of Vancouver; livable basic incomes for all (since food insecurity is a substantial result of inadequate incomes), and; for people in general to understand the challenges their neighbours may be facing  when it comes to food security. 

Needs and goals for strengthening food security in Vancouver

The Neighbourhood Food Networks are continuing to address community needs that existed before the pandemic—and are even more persistent during COVID. The Coordinators have been creating opportunities for community members to come together to learn, celebrate, advocate and be with one another. VNFN knows that social isolation—and not having social supports and connections—is an issue many Vancouverites face. 

“Many VNFN activities foster relationship-building amongst neighbours through engagement with food, and we have seen these relationships flourish!” says Sarah. “Together, we are pondering questions like: ‘How can we continue to build and bring community together while we are apart?’”

Sarah and the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinators are continuing to explore ideas to respond to these growing needs. Sarah and the VNFN Coordinators invite you to stay tuned for updates.

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Despite being unable to gather indoors, Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinators and community members are building on the relationships and programs established before the pandemic. Some gatherings are happening online, harvesting is underway in community gardens (which have been operating as essential services during the planting and growing seasons), and many networks are delivering nutritious food hampers to neighbours in need.
A portrait of Sarah Kim, smiling