The Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks (VNFN) are a network of community organizations committed to promoting food security in neighbourhoods across the City of Vancouver.
VNFN is committed to food equity and access, education, skill building, and advocacy, particularly for community members who are struggling economically. This work is based on the principle that all members of society have the right to quality food. VNFN provides a space for networks to collaborate, share best practices and advocate for food equity & justice, ecologically & culturally sustainable food systems, and community food resilience with a unified voice.
Visit the map to learn about a Neighbourhood Food Network in your community!
FOOD SECURITY FOR ALL
Neighbourhood Food Networks break down barriers that prevent people from accessing nutrient-rich, affordable, and personally acceptable food.
We increase access to food includes by offering drop-in meal programs, bulk buying clubs, mobile produce markets, emergency food access, community gardens, school gardens, and more.
EDUCATION & ENGAGEMENT
Neighbourhood Food Networks share knowledge and resources at every level of the food system through community-based education, advocacy, and research.
We build food literacy by hosting workshops, community kitchens, lectures, films, and discussions.
Neighbourhood Food Networks’ celebrations and gatherings involve food to meet physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs.
Our community events increase awareness around food security and reduce social isolation by helping neighbours meet neighbours.
FOOD JUSTICE & SOVEREIGNTY
Neighbourhood Food Networks amplify and empower the voices of underrepresented communities in the local food system.
We are working towards decolonizing food practices on Unceded Coast Salish Territories.
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.
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.
Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN) started nine years ago with greenhouse tomatoes from Gipanda farms. Farm Folk City Folk received some grants for a food security initiative, and approached organizations in Hastings-Sunrise to collaborate. Before long, there were more fresh vegetables from Van Whole produce, and the Kiwassa Neighbourhood House van helped deliver produce on Tuesdays. A food security family was started in the neighbourhood, and over the years it has grown and expanded.
HSCFN is a collective of five social services organizations in Northeast Vancouver, this Network includes Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, CityReach Care Society, Thunderbird Community Centre, and Seasons of Food Vancouver at the Hastings Community Centre.
Blain Butyniec (he, him), who has worked as Kiwassa’s Food Programs Coordinator for the past 4.5 years and Eva Aboud (she, her) who has worked at Frog Hollow as a Food Security and Outreach Coordinator for 15 years, have been co-coordinators for the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN) for 1.5 years. Their colleague Sharon Dong (she, her) from CityReach Care Society was born and raised in East Vancouver, and has been with CityReach since COVID as the Director for Food for Families. Food rescue from Van Whole produce is one of the pieces at the centre of collaboration between these three agencies
At the moment, Thunderbird Community Centre and Seasons of Food Vancouver aren’t able to operate due to limitations during COVID, but the collaboration and relationships all five organizations have built together contribute to the overall resilience of this Network. While many Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are hosted by one neighbourhood house, a key benefit of HSCFN is the ability to share ideas across several organizations and respond quickly to unique community needs. Eva notes that the families in Hastings-Sunrise are also very resourceful.
At work with the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network
Before COVID-19, the Network focused collectively on gardening, including workshops about urban farming, cooking and nutrition.There were community meals and food markets in place, as well as food recovery and distribution efforts. An emphasis on food justice advocacy, Indigenous land sovereignty, and dignified access to food are hallmarks of the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network.
Kiwassa Neighbourhood House
Kiwassa Neighbourhood House’s food program provides dignified access to food while building a more food secure community. Before COVID, they were offering diverse community kitchens, gardening and cooking workshops, and partnering with other organizations to redistribute food. The Kiwassa kitchen also provided free and low-cost, nutritious meals, with opportunities for students and volunteers to engage with others while learning or sharing skills. In addition, the Kiwassa kitchen continued providing meals and snacks for children’s summer camps, and caters for the daycare program this fall.
Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House
Eva shares that she mailed seeds out to the families in her programs, and emailed them with the steps to encourage everyone to try growing food. Many families followed up with photos of their thriving gardens!
“I feel very passionate about my work and as a facilitator of positive change I feel it’s my purpose and lifelong journey to help create positive change in guiding others to lead themselves to a sustainable life of empowerment and visions of a healthy future,” says Eva.
“As a parent in a low-income family, and then a single mom raising two daughters, I know what it’s like to try to put the best food on the table to raise a healthy family on very little money. The more I learn about how to be self-sufficient the more I want to help others to be self-sufficient so they attain the tools and resources to live a healthier life for them and their children with proudness and confidence.”
CityReach Care Society
CityReach Care Society is a community-based organization that is focused on families as well as the environment. One of the key programs is Food for Families (FFF) which is a free, nutritious food bank for low-income households serving fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein. Since COVID, FFF has grown from 100 to 800 hampers per week . In addition, the program has adapted to support guests better—from COVID compliance to daily Meals to Go, and delivery of hampers to vulnerable individuals. In addition to diverting good food from landfills and reducing carbon emissions, CityReach is keeping Bees which are essential to urban food production.
From Food Hubs to home deliveries
As the pandemic began affecting communities, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank ceased its distributed Food Hub services—which hosted at many locations in neighbourhoods throughout the city—limiting safe and dignified access to food for neighbours.
Kiwassa began delivering food hampers to folks in need. It quickly grew from one to three days, serving 200 households weekly from the West End of Vancouver, all the way out to Port Coquitlam and South Vancouver, and up to the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood in Northeast Vancouver.
At this time, there are 90 households receiving food hampers from Kiwassa, including those who used to attend the community Food Hub supported by the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, as well as participants involved in Kiwassa’s programs, and neighbours who heard about the service through word of mouth. Similarly, Saige Community Food Bank, an organization that ran twice monthly no barrier food banks providing food for trans, Two Spirit, gender diverse folks, as well as many others that may struggle in accessing regular food banks, also created a free home hamper delivery service. They also started holding online community kitchens, delivering the food items to participants the night before.
For both Kiwassa and Saige their food hamper delivery programs serve as a critical point of contact for many of the other programs at Kiwassa. Program coordinators took on food hamper delivery, which allowed them to safely make weekly visits to their program participants who would otherwise have been further isolated when community gathering places closed down. Since seniors faced the greatest risks to their health, while also being housebound, Kiwassa’s food program collaborates closely with the seniors program.
Together, they publish a newsletter for all hamper recipients, including recipe ideas for that week’s hamper contents, additional resources available in the community, online workshops, activities like colouring and mindfulness exercises, as well as neighbourhood walks. They also include articles about homelessness, Indigenous solidarity, and resisting anti-Black and anti-Asian racism. They have also been able to distribute donated books from the library and art supplies to children and youth, as well as BINGO cards to seniors for the online games they started hosting.
What Neighbours are Saying
“Thank you soo much! I cannot tell you how much our members appreciate the grocery hampers. Our folks have been drastically impacted by COVID and access to food has been a lifesaver, so thank you.”
PACE Society (a CityReach partner)
“I am extremely grateful and appreciative. The salmon you included is truly a treat and not something I expected but very much appreciated.”
NM, a CityReach guest who receives a modified hamper suitable for her illness says
While local grassroots organizations have been delivering services to community members, there has been support from larger organizations linked to government funding. Eva says the volunteers she received from United Way are remarkable, and she is grateful for those volunteers who continue to help deliver emergency food to families each week.
The Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network seeks to build deeper collaboration amongst its partner agencies, and grow local active involvement in the Network. The food rescue project has been further developed during the pandemic. They have coordinated some bulk purchasing and redistribution of food among HSCFN agencies as well as partnering with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network organizations. This initiative has provided the opportunity to collaborate a bit across networks, particularly through more-frequent interagency meetings, which has helped people doing this front-line labour to feel less isolated and support one another’s work.
Before COVID, the Network was planning community workshops across its five agencies that would be jointly presented and promoted. Some workshops would be repeated at each agency, while others would follow a theme customized for each location, to encourage some cross-pollination as people visit several locations in the neighbourhood.
Kiwassa is about to start running a weekly community food market, as part of the Community Food Centres Canada ‘Market Greens’ project. A big feature of this will be bringing affordable produce to neighbours, with an additional 40 families receiving further subsidies each year of the 2 year program. Starting September 29, the market runs Wednesdays from 2-5pm at Pandora Park. In partnership with Vines Art Festival who currently program the park’s field house, they aim to collaborate on a monthly market that will host more vendors and performances.
Kiwassa is working with REFARMERS to develop a new communal garden site in Hastings-Sunrise. Unlike community gardens where people have individual plots, communal gardens are collectively maintained, creating deeper opportunities for community-building.
Sharon mentions the Network will need resourcing, non-emergency food donations and volunteers to sustain them post-COVID. The focus should shift from emergency response to sustainability to support the community, because the inequitable impacts of COVID will be felt for years.
Learn more, contribute and celebrate community food action with Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network:
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The Mount Pleasant Food Network (MPFN) is dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of all residents living in Mount Pleasant and nearby neighbourhoods by promoting an accessible, just and sustainable food system for our community. Administered by Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, this Network plays an important role in community development especially relating to food security and food justice issues.
The Mount Food Network has a focus on building value in the food justice movement and supporting the work of individuals and groups who are experts in this field. Over the past seven years, outgoing Network Coordinator and Indigenous community developer and planner Jolene Andrew (Git’xsan, Wit’suwet’in) has been an advisor on Indigenous food sovereignty issues.
Currently the network is seeking a new Network Coordinator (part-time) to continue Jolene’s wonderful work and bring new energy and ideas to the network. Please inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Network’s activities typically include Indigenous land sovereignty advocacy and action through the Queen Alexandra Elementary School garden, and the Resurfacing History Project, hosted by Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House. The school garden has been part of the Indigenous Foodscapes project by FarmToSchool BC and the Vancouver School Board, and seed saving practices are taught for food system resiliency.
Before COVID, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House and the Food Network served weekly community meals and frequently hosted cooking and nutrition workshops for participants of all ages. Food recovery and distribution has been one of many supports offered to low-income participants.
Since COVID, many activities have shifted to an online format. The Food Network Coordinator participates in many groups and committees, with a COVID response lens from the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood view. This includes Climate Equity at the City of Vancouver and the Food Policy Council.
Some of the typical Neighbourhood House programming has shifted toward online cooking workshops, including a monthly youth cooking club using Zoom. While the Mount Pleasant Food Network typically gathers with many community organizations, the pandemic has prevented a gathering of the full network, but outdoor activities at the garden have continued.
Direct services have been shifted toward emergency food response, and supplying take-home meals and food boxes to seniors.
In the autumn of 2019, the Mount Pleasant Food Network was able to have some planning done to inform the future and ongoing work priorities, although these plans have been put on pause. The Food Network’s priorities are to work on communication to grow the network, and focus on collaboration and connecting across networks to support new and developing initiatives. They would also like to directly support some initiatives like starting new projects.
In order to build capacity across the Network, and to share the work and draw on additional resources, the Mount Pleasant Food Network is moving toward a cohesive and collaborative inter-agency approach to supporting its activities.
Learn more, contribute and celebrate community food action with Mount Pleasant Food Network:
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