Blog #1: About us

Vancouver is beautiful city blessed with a surreal, natural backdrop that casts a sense of prosperity over the city. The city has an immense cultural, creative, and economic wealth that sets it up for success. However, the beaming contrast between the “haves” and the “have-nots” continues to one of our most complex and intricate social issues, and nowhere is this contrast as vocal as in our food system. Food insecurity does not disappear overnight. It requires actors in our food system that actively challenge our food system framework and organizations that take up the task of combating food insecurity in our communities.

Hi everyone, we are group 13 from LFS 350 and welcome to our blog. Below is a picture of us right outside of the Gordon Neighbourhood House located on 1019 Broughton St, Vancouver, BC. From left to right we are: Olivia Tong, Belinda Yang, Sophie Campbell, Jeffrey Kwok, Annah MacKay and Dean Firgo.

Introductions

My name is Annah MacKay and I am a settler of Irish and mixed European ancestry who grew up on the traditional and unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I am in my third year at UBC in the Global Resource Systems program with a focus on First Nations and Indigenous studies, conservation forestry and ethnobotany. I am interested in the ways that I, as a settler, can contribute to the decolonization of food and resource systems in this area of the world. On weekends, when not in school, I work as a mental health support worker in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver at Insite Safe Injection Site. For me, this work represents a meaningful connection to community in a place that I choose to call home. This experience has allowed me to be continuously reflective in my engagement with people from diverse backgrounds, while we navigate through a health care system that often does not serve them. I feel that the Food Hub model aligns well with my politics in that both Gordon Neighbourhood House and Insite are working to connect often marginalized people with the services they need n in a dignified, empowering way.

Hello! My name is Jeffrey Kwok and I am a third year student at UBC in the Applied Biology program. Born a third generation Vancouverite, I am of mixed Malaysian, Thai, and Chinese descent, and I grew up overseas for most of my life until returning to Vancouver to attend university three years ago where I am currently a Applied Animal Biology major. Although the focus of my studies is on the biological components of the food system, (e.g. animal welfare and sustainable farming), I have developed a keen interest in the social role of food and how food shapes our community over the last three years. I am particularly interested in the importance of food security in creating positive change throughout different sectors of society, and how food can function as a vector for social interactions, conversation, and bonding. My family lives in the less affluent parts of Vancouver (Kensington/East side and Hastings-Sunrise), and the striking contrast between immense wealth side by side with food insecure family and homelessness has really left a mark on how I perceive my city. I chose this project because I find that the work in Gordon Neighbourhood House aligns well with my interest of combating food insecurity and improving food literacy. Additionally, this project gives me the opportunity to delve into and explore how local organizations are using food as a tool of empowerment to connect different segments of our society, and it allows me to be proactive in pursuing my interests.

I am Sophie Campbell, a 3rd year Global Resource Systems major in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. Within my major, my focus is in Sustainable Agriculture and Water Systems. I hold American citizenship and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. I feel passionate about finding the intersections between sustainable agricultural systems and ensuring universal access to fresh, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. I feel that good food is a human right and that by working collaboratively with each other and respectfully with the land and ecosystems we are a part of, we can begin to find solutions to food issues. The Gordon Neighborhood House feels like a place that shares a lot of these passions. I chose this project because I want to further my experiences in food security-related projects and I want to learn how I can make a positive impact at the Gordon Neighborhood House as well as in the future with other organizations. My hope is that our group can organize a component of the Food Hub events that adds value and is based entirely off the wants and needs of those who utilize the GNH Food Hub. I hope to learn what goes into putting on a program like GNH’s Food Hub and how an event of this nature can be made into an inclusive and dignified event for those who participate.

My name is Olivia Tong and I am a third year Food Science student, with particular interest in food microbiology, food safety, and product development. In my spare time, I enjoy kickboxing, exploring beautiful B.C. through hiking, and finding new plant-based recipes to test in the kitchen. As a child, I grew up in the Hastings-Sunrise area, with my mother being the sole provider for my siblings and I. Although my family and I did not experience food insecurity first hand, this topic holds dear to my heart. I understand how troubling it can be for struggling families to find a balance between housing, food, education, and well being. I believe that all individuals should have the access to healthy, nutritious foods at low-cost or free-of-cost. GNH’s Food Hub program encompasses this idea by providing dignified access to food and resources for those who are in need of help. In the past, I have been able to take part in hosting food literacy workshops at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House and at Britannia Elementary School; both sets of workshops were focused on children’s education. I am excited to be able to experience working with an older demographic at Gordon Neighbourhood House, and brainstorm how we can help, as a group, to tackle and make permanent changes to issues regarding food insecurity and food literacy.

Hi! My name is Belinda Yang and I am a third year Food and Nutritional Science student. Some of my hobbies include cooking, drawing, knitting, crochet and crafting things. I am from China and I came here when I was seven years old. Being a first generation immigrant from a middle class Chinese family, I struggled a lot growing up here because my family lived under the poverty line for many years. Not only was there a language barrier for us, but there was also a cultural barrier. We had no sense of belonging and a lack of community to provide us with support for the longest time. I lived most of my childhood being food insecure despite a lack of understanding for it. Back then we did not realize the existence of places such as GNH and were not able to gain that level of support and help. I chose to work with the Food Hub program at GNH because I want to help others in any way possible, especially through food, to prevent as many people and families from experiencing that lack of support and guidance that my family went through. I hope our contributions can help connect more individuals on a more personal level by making sure that they feel a sense of community, support and food security.     

Hello! My name is Fritz Dean Firgo and I am currently a student in the Dual Degree Food, Nutrition and Health and Education major. So yes, I will be a teacher in the future! To be honest, that wasn’t exactly my original path. I had planned to go into Food Science since I liked the concept but then I realized that I loved teaching way more! So I thought it would be a cool thing to combine two disciplines of study into what I will be doing. Growing up in Indonesia as a kid from a middle class family, I did enjoy the privilege of always having food three meals a day. On the other hand, the extremely wide wealth inequality in Indonesia made me see how not everyone is able to enjoy that exact privilege. The Gordon Neighborhood House is definitely a great asset to the community in the sense that it not only serves as a regular community center, but a support network for people who may be lacking in one of life’s basic necessities. I hope that through this project we will be able to provide an engaging, fun workshop that enriches the way the community of the GNH utilize their food!

Group interests, goals and reasons for choosing this project

We are excited about the Food Hub at Gordon Neighbourhood House because we believe that everyone deserves access to healthy, culturally relevant food regardless of income or social positioning. We are interested in creative food distribution models that allow for community engaged spaces and more opportunities to connect with each other through food. We hope that as a team, we can help co-create this engagement in the upcoming months. As a group, we want to listen to community members to realize what would make a positive addition the the Food Hub program. As Ernesto Sirolli discussed in his TED talk (2012), the most positive changes are made by local actors, and the biggest outside impact can be made through listening and acting as an aid to help execute the ideas of the local people. For the next few weeks, we will be volunteering for the Food Hub program to better understand how this dignified food exchange operates. This volunteering opportunity will also allow us to pinpoint our demographic and interact with participants to see if there are any skills or knowledge they would like to gain.

Community organization 

This semester, we have the pleasure and we are beyond excited to work closely with the Gordon Neighbourhood House. This neighbourhood house is nestled in the heart of the West End, just a stone’s throw away from Robson Street, yet entrenched with a suburban feel. The neighbourhood house has a similar function to a community center, however its approach to members of the community sets it apart from community centers. Its relationship with its members is dynamic rather than directional, and the organization centers its mandate around developing communities and working to improve food access and food security in the community and beyond. Rather than merely providing services to the community, Gordon Neighbourhood House focuses on accessibly engaging members of the community on a continual basis through offering an array of free or inexpensive programs that targets “the needs and dreams of the community”,  in which people can partake. Many of these activities are food-related, and a free/inexpensive meals are often used as a way to incite attendance. In extension, food provides a vector for intercultural dialogue, community strengthening, and bonding between attendees; further highlighting the multifunctionality  of food. There is a recognition of Right to Food as a basic human right and the potential for food to engage and empower the community and its members.

First impressions & what we have learned

Before the first meeting, none of us had any particular idea of what a neighbourhood house is and we went to the first meeting with little expectations and a bag load of curiosity. We all had the idea that a neighbourhood house is similar to but also distinct from a community center, however we would not have been able to articulate the nuances that distinguish one from the other. At the first meeting and on the following Friday where two of us spent the morning volunteering at Gordon Neighbourhood House, we learned a lot about the place and our first impression is that the place houses a very diverse set of people that showcases almost the entire demographic of the West End, with some segments of the demographic represented to a much greater proportion than others. We also got the sense that GNH houses a wide variety of events that are tailored to specifically targeted key demographics that are of interest to the organization. On Fridays, particularly, food plays a huge role in GNH programs and serves as the common denominator of the people visiting GNH, here under the Food Bank and the Food Hub. For us, these first experiences highlight the important role of food as a biological necessity, underline the struggle when people do not have the economic, physical, and social means to assess adequate amount of appropriate foods, and depicts the multi-faceted nature of food that can be used as a mean to support the local community as well as initiate conversations and foster relationships.

Project objectives

Our group aims to plan, facilitate, and evaluate food-related programs and activity in Gordon Neighbourhood House. These activities are planned to take place on Fridays in conjunction with the weekly Friday Food Hubs. We wish to create programs that remain an integral part of GNH, helping them carry out their goals even after our departure.

Overall, we are all exciting to see where this project will lead us. Food is important and having a full stomach and three meals a day is analogous to building the foundation to a house on which the rest of the structure is built. GNH is doing such a fantastic job in supporting and engaging the community through food-related programs and initiatives, and we hope that our project can add another element to this existing framework from which patrons and the community can benefit.

References

TED. (2013, November 26). Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM