Mount Pleasant Food Network (MPFN) is a proud member of the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks. Since 2014, MPFN, comprised of non-profits, organizations, and community groups has been actively supporting the health and well-being of Mount Pleasant residents through various food programs as well as promoting an accessible, just and sustainable food system. However, the pandemic forced the network to put its collaborative efforts on pause as organizations were responding to urgent food security needs of the community.
In the winter of 2021-2022, the Mount Pleasant Food Network, in collaboration with the Union Gospel Mission, released The Mount Pleasant Food Asset and Need Scan. The report is based on key informant interviews with staff and volunteers from churches and community organizations that run supportive food programs for vulnerable individuals: it takes stock of the lessons of the pandemic, focusing on challenges, strengths and gaps in the service provision, as well as provides recommendations. During the course of the project, the desire for renewed collaboration, focused on systemic justice issues, became evident.
In June 2022, Food Stash Foundation, stepped in to become the host agency for the MPFN. With the vision of “sustainable food system that supports healthy communities and a thriving environment” and calling Mount Pleasant their new home, Food Stash has found a strong alignment in supporting the work of the network.
We spoke with Heather Gerrie – Community Engagement & Research Coordinator at Food Stash and a new MPFN network coordinator about this new partnership.
How did Food Stash Foundation decide to become the host agency for the Mount Pleasant Food Network?
Over the duration of the pandemic, the MPFN became less active and community organizations grew more disconnected to one another as we all tried to navigate the new challenges COVID-19 presented to our organizations.
The MPFN was originally hosted by the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, who have been a dedicated and driving force behind the food network. As the pandemic winds down and interest in reconnecting the MPFN increases, the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House reached out to Food Stash and presented an opportunity for us as relatively new neighbours in Mount Pleasant to take on the leadership role for the network.
As there are so many groups doing important food security work in Mount Pleasant, we saw becoming the host organization for the MPFN as a valuable opportunity to revitalize the network and strengthen the connections between like-minded organizations to collaborate and problem solve together.
How does the work of MPFN align with the Food Stash mission?
Food Stash works to improve food security while reducing the environmental impact of food waste in Vancouver. As we seek to do this, we are starting to partner with academic collaborators to investigate the root causes of food insecurity in our neighbourhood in order to better understand how to advocate with fellow community members.
The MPFN was formed with the intention of connecting community partners working in food security to develop higher level assessments of food insecurity in the Mount Pleasant area. The mission of Food Stash aligns well with this goal, and enables us to take a collaborative approach to creating systems-level change and true food security in the neighbourhood.
What part of your new role are you most excited about ?
I am excited about seeing like minded people and groups coming together and collaborating to build more sustainable food systems and improving access to food for our community. It’s energizing to come alongside groups approaching the challenge of food security from their own unique perspectives and strengths and work together to create solutions so that no one goes hungry in our neighbourhood.
What is your vision for the first year of the network: how will you approach building out the network and working towards your vision?
Most organizations are currently working at the food aid/food relief level, but with the desire to move towards true food security. I believe that by working together across the network and leveraging our collective knowledge and resources, we are both better attuned to the needs of our community and better equipped to move towards true food security.
Within the network, we will engage in regular meetings and dialogue to provide opportunities for knowledge and resource sharing. In the fall, Food Stash is moving warehouse locations, and we are planning to host an open house in our new space where other network groups can come and showcase to the community what their organization’s mission is and connect with the network in person.
What were some key learnings and insights from the MPFN’s 2022 Mt Pleasant Food Asset & Need Scan?
The latest asset and needs scan generated valuable insight into the challenges faced in Mount Pleasant during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some notable highlights include that most organizations surprised themselves with how “nimble” they were, and their ability to rapidly pivot and change or adapt their programming when needed. Through the pandemic, there was also a deepening of relationships with a subset of community members at each organization, but a loss of broader connection to the community. Moving forward, it will be important to maintain these key relationships while finding ways to engage with the wider community as well. Furthermore, financial challenges first felt in the pandemic are continuing. The cost of food, housing, and gas are continuing to rise, contributing to an increase in food insecurity amongst Vancouverites. This will be a critical challenge for the network to address moving forward.
Who are you planning to engage as the network partners?
Any non-profit, organization, or community group in Mount Pleasant that is working towards reducing hunger and food insecurity in the neighbourhood canto join the MPFN. Whether food security is the primary goal of their organization, or if food programming is just one of the many services offered, they are welcome to join the network. We are also hoping to extend this welcome out to local businesses that are seeking to generate food security and food sustainability in the neighbourhood as well.