Bold actions for a food crisis

Filling unmet community food needs during COVID-19

PIctured here: Staff and volunteers from Grandview-Woodland Food Connection wearing masks and loading food hampers into a volunteer's personal vehicle, for delivery to community members.  The title reads: "Bold actions for a food crisis: Filling unmet community food needs during COVID-19"
Staff and volunteers from Grandview-Woodland Food Connection prepare nutritious food hampers for delivery to members of their community.

Fostering food-secure neighbourhoods

Over 25 years, Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks have learned to support people in growing and accessing nutritious and culturally familiar foods close to home, in neighbourhoods throughout the city. We promote access to food with dignity, and without barriers.

Many of our actions and principles reflect the global Right to Food standards, as outlined by the United Nations ( 

Our model is unique! We are a citywide network of networks, working together collectively through problem-solving, sharing information and resources, and advocating to increase our collective impact to build healthy food for all neighbourhoods.

An image showing a map with the locations of all 14 Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks, which doesn't represent all food organizations in the City of Vancouver. //

We carry out our collective work and responsibilities on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Our work shows how investing in a just community food security model builds strong relationships, and quality access to food on an everyday basis. We’ve also demonstrated resilience and adaptability when crises arise.

Our model is responsive to the unique needs and cultures of each neighbourhood. Investing in community food security promotes individual and collective health, and eases strain on social and health care systems due to poverty and inequity.

Building resilience for Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks (before and beyond COVID) means:

  • Advocating for food justice, poverty reduction, and Indigenous land sovereignty
  • Urban food growing, including community, school and permaculture gardens
  • Gardening workshops, seed-saving and distribution
  • Community meals
  • Good Food Boxes
  • Cooking and nutrition workshops
  • Community food markets and food distribution
  • Community food celebrations and festivals
  • Food recovery

Addressing food insecurity

During COVID-19, people in our city faced a food crisis that lasted long after the shelves were restocked. Many people became food insecure by losing employment and income, as well as access to affordable, nutritious food near home. 

Our food systems were inequitable before 2020, and COVID worsened these problems. The 2016 Census shows 20% of Vancouverites live below the poverty line, which is closely linked to food insecurity. Numbers are much higher for our Indigenous and Black neighbours, as well as newcomers to Canada—who remain disproportionately affected by poverty, food insecurity and COVID-19.

These were just some impacts of the food crisis:

  • Long grocery lineups creating barriers for people with limited mobility
  • Limited grocery delivery services
  • Inability for people to afford healthy food
  • Closure of many citywide food services, meaning longer travel times and health risks to reach a central food bank location

Our work creates a strong body of evidence that community food security builds everyday resiliency and crisis-preparedness in our neighbourhoods.

Our existing relationships allowed 15 Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network staff (many of them working part-time) to immediately grasp the need for filling the gaps with emergency food assistance.

Providing emergency food access during COVID was a mandate shift for us, but here are some ways we’ve boosted food security during the pandemic:

  • Food hamper and meal deliveries
  • Pop-up produce markets
  • Online gardening guides & workshops
  • Seed packet mailouts
  • Outdoor community meals at a distance
An image showing our COVID food crisis response numbers:
7,807 Households Supported /
20,104 Individuals Supported /
105,190 Food Hampers Delivered containing nutritious food that was purchased or donated /
178,239 Prepared Meals Provided /
37,583 Volunteer Hours by 1,332 People / 
215 New Partnerships Leveraged... in addition to our existing partnerships

Stories of impact from our neighbours

Investing in resilient food systems

Billboards, advertising, politicians, and news media have told the public that food banks are the answer to food insecurity. We recognize the role that food banks play in helping people put food on the table, but we know through our work that building thriving, food secure communities requires a long-term capacity-building approach. 

We need better legislation, more funding, and more support to help communities grow toward their vision of a just, equitable, and food secure future.

With an annual budget of about $1.76 million (just 0.11% of the the City of Vancouver’s $1.597 billion operating budget), there could be a full-time Food Coordinator in all 22 Vancouver neighbourhoods (CUPE 15, Programmer 2). Our current operating budget from the City of Vancouver is $200,000 per year, through the Sustainable Food Systems Grant.

We seek the funding to continue our pre-COVID work citywide, creating a future where every neighbourhood has a community food security network, and every household is food secure.

Read more about our Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks’ bold actions in response to the food crisis

Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood Food Network
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House Right to Food Network
Gordon Neighbourhood House
Grandview-Woodland Food Connection
Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network
Little Mountain-Riley Park Neighbourhood Food Network
Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice 
South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network
Strathcona Community Centre Food Security Program
Westside Food Collaborative

Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks: Advocating for Food Justice

Story by Jenny van Enckevort, with contributions by Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.

Help us build capacity and resiliency over charity!

We invite you to give to community food networks, to support our community food security model.