For the past three months, our group has been collecting data at various locations on the Downtown Eastside trying to find out what women are looking for in a food program. We have gone through many ups and downs, but we are so thankful for the opportunity to do this project. While reflecting on course, we have come up with a moment of significance that we all share.


When we finished our last interview and realized the finality of the semester, we felt relief and anticipation to compile the data and share our findings with the class. It is hard to gauge if the information we have collected is plausible for the centre to implement. In LFS 350 we have learned about food security and how it exists in communities close to us – such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The women’s resource centre, our community partner in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, wants to provide a food program that recognizes the needs of the women who will be using it, and in that way nourish these women with available food – a small step closer to achieving food security for many of these women who do not have economic access to healthy foods. Because this food program could have such a great importance in the lives of the women who will be using the service, we really hope the time invested by the women’s resource society in us and the effort we put in will make a difference – and make the food program one step closer to being a place of community, nourishment, and accessibility.

The process which required us to balance our schedules, figure out what is expected to result from our project, and learn to put our visions to work can be frustrating, yet we were able to work together as a team and hopefully produce some positive change. 

For many of us, leaving the shelter after our last day felt strange because it seemed like there was a sense that change was imminent, where it may not have been. It seemed like the big-scale questions we were asking were sparking thought on the ideal food programs for women who were being questioned, while very few of their suggestions would actually be implemented due to logistics. It felt as if our attempts to make women feel like we were fully engaged, listening, and responsive to their needs and thoughts were only misleading them, since only one solution can be implemented and so many ideas will inevitably have to be thrown out. This made us think deeply on the reality of working with impoverished communities, which we want to do in the future: will we always be left feeling disappointed? How can we work with these feelings to be more productive in these kinds of roles? 


So What? 

Not knowing if our work will actually make a difference is hard to accept. What could have we done to make it better? There are limitations to this class that prevent some things that would have been more value to us in helping the women’s centre – especially time. When we first started collaborating with the women’s centre our coordinator told us they would prefer if our  we could come into multiple sessions at the same place in order to build relationships with the women. By building relationships we could build trust, and perhaps have a more in depth conversation of what the women would really like to see in a food program. But as all of us are full time students, this was not our full time job and although we were able to visit varying locations around ten times, More sessions would have benefited our data collection. There was so much uncertainty and everything was in the air, from our side as well as with our community partner. If another group were to continue with this project, few things could be considered for improvement: better scheduled interview time that corresponded to program’s schedules, better promotion of the project, and a shorter administration period. With time as a constraint,  we did a pretty good job of collecting as much data as we could, but with that said again, we hope that what we collected is plausible for the women’s centre to implement.

The thought that the world is inherently unequal is something our group has discussed. This project gave us the opportunity to try and make a difference in the lives of women who were given less opportunity and different lives than our group members. We are hoping our work can positively impact their lives, if only to provide food that is nutritious and of their needs and desires. 

Now What? 

Now that we are finished interviews, we need to compile our data in a presentable way. Not only will compiling our data in a meaningful way in our infographic and report be appreciated by our community partner, it is an excellent way to educate the broader UBC population about the issues of food security very close to our home. We will be focusing on writing final reports and presentations that address the needs of our audiences. How can we portray all that we have learned in all of these separate platforms appropriately? How can we give our community partner the most useful information only while not wasting their time? How can we integrate our personal learning into our presentation and final report that will be handed in to our professors in LFS 350?

During our presentations in the Nest, we hope to see students engaging in our projects – and learning about the importance of all aspects of the food system – including food security. And once the course is over, we really hope their food program is able to develop into the one that the women envisioned.


#3 – Strategies for a graceful dismount

Weekly objectives and achievements

We think of the commencing of the project as a major achievement – after all our administrative work and planning we were finally able to ‘begin’ our project this week. It is exciting because all of the work prior to these interview sessions prepared us well. Beginning the project was a huge advance because we were able to tweak with the way we handle situations with patrons to receive a better understanding of what they want from a food program. When interacting with patrons, some of us were reminded of the privilege we hold in society in our university bubble, which is important to reflect on. Although our interview sessions may not have been as successful as they could be in our first sessions – as we did not interview as many women as we had hoped to – it is a learning process and we learned a lot this week on how to improve future sessions. We plan to improve future sessions by bringing more snacks and also by working with our community partner to set up posters advertising when we will be around for these sessions if people would like to state their opinions on a new food program.

These past few weeks have been filled with slow and progressive learning about the aspects of the food system that women experience. Although some of our group members had a lag at the beginning of their session, the meeting with the coordinator provided them with a lot of insights and helped to clear up their last confusion. She also gave them some ideas of how to approach women. For example, she suggested to create a ‘if’ scenario instead of asking people directly on their opinion for the food program, as well as some ‘conversation starters’ to casually invite women to participate. In addition, we noticed that the staffs of women’s drop-in centre are not aware of the coming food program which we found quite surprising. Although writing blog posts and doing research may increase some skills, actually being immersed in the community and interacting with community partners in person has proved to teach some of us the most – as they are the most knowledgeable in how to work within their community. We were interested in their missions, values, and visions, and how they combine these when providing services and resources to the women.

We also found that speaking with women at the different centres gave us significantly varied and wide-reaching information. Not only have we received information on specifically what we need to know for this project, we were also told about what it feels like to be a woman trying to access gender-neutral services in the area, some unexpected ways that women find food that we did not know existed before, demographically specific issues surrounding food access, things that women gain from accessing food programs that are not food related, as well as issues that arise from the current food system they participate in that have social repercussions. Some of the group members’ sessions were very emotionally charged and contained information that we did not ask for but were humbled to receive.

Moment of significant change

During this week’s tutorial, we were able to reflect on our changes in emotions, skills, and knowledge through graphing. The emotions graph looked at different stages in our project, and how we felt throughout them. The knowledge and skills graph looked at how much we learned in each week. We did this individually first, and then compared our thoughts with our group members. It was interesting to see the different perspectives each team member had during different times of the term. Overall, we seemed to have similar attitudes and emotions. We were most excited when meeting our community partner, and when we started visits and interviews. We collectively felt the most frustrated during the proposal writing process. While it was difficult to hear constructive feedback after feeling like we did a good job, it was beneficial to our project to have more time and space to go over our proposal during the revision process, and overall we felt more prepared as a result of the feedback.

The tutorial allowed us to reflect on exactly where we felt the most successful in our path so far. It seems like the moments of certainty were the most helpful for our confidence in the project. Certainty was vastly enhanced when discussing things with the community partner directly, and when we were actively interviewing women, because things that were working could be corrected immediately and things that were not working could be abandoned on the spot. While planning for our project, predicting what would work was much more difficult to do and left us feeling uneasy. Recognizing this is helpful for the future because we will be able to take direct steps to gaining more certainty by talking with our community partner instead of wondering things and discussing things only among ourselves. Also, knowing that we do not need to be perfectly prepared for every single interview helped our emotional situation; the space to adjust and come back better prepared was given to us structurally, by splitting our interviews up into separate sessions. We now know that we are capable of adjusting to the circumstances we find ourselves in to complete our objective, which increased our situation-specific self-efficacy, allowing us to act feeling like we have a good chance of success and take more risks in the future.

The graceful dismount

We have had our ups and downs, our administrative work and our first interview sessions, but we think that one thing that we have realized through the dry parts of the process, is that our hard work pays off. We may not have gotten copious amounts of input from the women yet, but we also realize that what we have more time to gather it, and that if we continue to work and learn from our experiences, we will finish our sessions with more than enough information to use to write our report. With only one month left in our projects, our strategy is to continue this project with the same hard work, support for each other, and positive attitudes we have had so far in order to feel accomplished by the term end – which to us, means actually contributing to a successful food program for our community partner. Our group follows strict deadlines and always aims to finish our work early. Everyone submits their work on time and everyone is willing to do extra work if it is necessary (e.g. editing, researching). In addition, we communicate with each other and our community partners on a regular basis and discuss our project openly. We listen to advice and make changes accordingly. With the strong desire to do well and the ability to be flexible, we will be entering into the final stages of our project on a good foot. We must ensure that communication is kept open and that the path that results in the most effective outcome is identified and taken when it arises, with openness and a good attitude. We are excited to get started on the analysis and creative aspects of writing our final report, which will include recommendations and a synthesis of knowledge, as well as a great deal of thoughtfulness.

#2 – Progress


 Weekly Objectives and Achievements

Over the past few weeks, we have completed and achieved many of our objectives with the help of our community partner from the women’s centre. Our first meeting included interviews with our community partner to ensure our goals align with the mission, vision and values of the women’s center. Once passing the interviews, we were provided with insightful readings and forms regarding the privacy of our interviewees and the expectation of the center. We also completed criminal record checks.

This week we have been focusing on communicating with the centre in order to understand the extent of our project. Through communication, the expectation of the coordinators of the women’s centre became clear, as well as our next steps of the project.

One lesson we learned from this week was how to present the women’s center in our blogpost. To avoid the complication of using the organizations name, we chose to refer to the organization as the women’s centre. This act of communication allowed us to foster a positive relationship with our partner, and helped us to build trust for the future.



To evaluate our progress we will use the what, so what, now what framework.



Research was conducted online regarding what food programs are available in the DTES. It was discovered that various food programs exist in the area and are catered to different demographics. Different food programs allot free food to different members of society. For instance, some are for pregnant women, or women in general, as well as women and children in cohesion. Others provide low costs meals to their general members. Community members of the DTES also use a food bank and a community kitchen.

We have also considered the women’s centre’s current role in the resource access web of the DTES. The food program they will put in place is an extension of the society they have already created. To implement a food program that is as effective as possible, our group must consider the assets the women’s centre currently holds.

So What:

Our background research and literature review provides a basis of understanding the potentials of the work we will conduct. This knowledge is significant because it reflects the various pre-existing resources for women in the DTES. It is not surprising that there are already programs in place for women, as they are of a demographic who are among the most vulnerable to malnutrition, a direct result of food insecurity (Sachs, 2014).

By conducting the literature review in a jointly edited document, we are consistently exposed to one another’s work, bringing all of our knowledge together. An overview of the different programs was extrapolated from this research, allowing us to better understand the range of programs available. We have broken down the aspects of the many food programs into a series of moving parts, which allow the food programs to fill different niches within the larger web of food access improvement strategies. These are: Accessory services (coupled to the food program); Group of people it is accessible to; Specific food services that it provides; Needs or desires it caters to in the community that are self-determined; External needs or desires, e.g. nutritional requirements, governmental standards, larger community development goals; Impact on marginalized voices (within and outside of the socially marginalized demographic that the women centre serves); Cost to the organization and requirements of staffing and equipment, and preparation, storage, and sourcing possibilities.

This information outlines how programs may be designed. Such models can be used to create an improved model better suited to the needs and desires of the women who access the resource centre. As such, these findings will shape how we design our survey questionnaire to further gather our data. It is really important to understand the diversity of potential food program structures when we enter into dialogue with participants in our study, so that we can at once ask open-ended questions and be able to use responses creatively in our analysis and suggestions, while also being able to follow up with questions about these aspects in order to refine and narrow down the preferences of participants. The literature review, then, will help us build stepping stones between the raw data that we collect and how we should reflect on and use it.

Now what:

After considering the information gathered through the literature review, we better understand how we will create a clear and concise survey questionnaire. This is pertinent to creating an optimal survey that will best elicit functional data that may be used to construct a unique food program; one that is indeed based on the needs and desires of the women who access the resource centre. We will incorporate the FAO’s food-security framework (Sachs, 2014) as well as the asset based development approach (Mathie, 2003) while designing the survey. In this manner we can create not only a program that meets the needs of the women, but also one that is increasingly plausible, viable and sufficient. In particular, we will need to communicate with the women’s centre to unearth what assets they have or could acquire to support a food program. More generally, the plausibility, viability and sufficiency increase using these models, as we consider the limits of the women’s centres capacity to promote a food program, we consider the various aspects of food programs niches, as well as the four pillars of food security outlined by the FAO: availability, access, utilization, and stability.

Objectives and achievements: a matrix


Upcoming Objectives

Several aspects of the project must be approved by the coordinators of the women centre before continuing. Specifically, the survey questionnaire that will be used as a guide to the talks we will carry out, as well as the advertising poster and the schedule for the guided talks must be approved.


How we will achieve these objectives

Members of our team will design a poster to be used to advertise our interviews by October 20th. The poster will be sent for confirmation before it is posted at the drop-in centre. In order to confirm an interview schedule for the upcoming month, we will send the coordinators our weekly availability by October 17th, which will be used by the coordinators to create the interview schedules. We will also research what resources are already available to the women in the DTES through the women’s shelter and other nearby establishments, as well as online to consolidate our understanding of the neighbourhood.




Work cited:

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486.

Sachs, C., & Patel-Campillo, A. (2014). Feminist food justice: Crafting a new vision. Feminist Studies, 40(2), 396-410.

Creating a Food Program For a Women’s Centre in the Downtown Eastside

Hello and welcome to our blog! We are so happy to be beginning our project with our community partner, the women’s centre on the Downtown Eastside, over the next couple of months. We hope to make this blog a place to communicate our journey in creating a drop-in food program for the women and children who access their resources. In this blog post we will introduce ourselves as a team, introduce the centre and the goals of the project, and review our own goals and approaches while working with them.


From left to right: Sydney, Angela, Amanda, Christina, Caterina, Ingird

Let’s get started with some introductions!

Caterina Marra is a third-year student studying Global Resource Systems and specializing in health. Caterina’s interests include social and environmental justice, preventative healthcare, and community capacity building. She also enjoys time spent with her friends, family, as well as with trees!

Angela Tung is a third year Food, Nutrition, and Health student. She enjoys practicing yoga and making home cooked meals.

Ingrid is a third year student at UBC, majoring in Nutritional Science. Ingrid enjoys cooking for friends and family, doing latte art, and travelling.

Amanda is in fourth year student at UBC in the Food, Nutrition, and Health program. Amanda enjoys teaching skating, volunteering with youth, and eating good food during her free time.

Sydney is in her third year in the Food, Nutrition, and Health program at UBC. Her interests include nutrition, promoting wellness in the community, and spending time in nature.

Last but not least, Christina is majoring in Plant and Soil Sciences within Global Resource Systems. Christina is interested in helping to make the northern regions of Canada more food secure. Christina also loves photography, and bringing art to unusual places.

More About Community Partner

Our community project with the women’s centre is very meaningful to us as a group. We chose to be involved with this project because we want to support them in developing a meaningful food program for the women and children who access their service – in order for them to have access to safe and healthful food that reflects their needs and desires. The centre works to provide resources such as safe housing and education to women and children impacted by violence.

Team’s First Impressions

While choosing this project, we agreed with the centre’s  objectives and mission to ending gendered violence, and thought that this project was one that could be directly impactful and tactful. In order to create this food program, our first steps include making connections with the women of the centre and their community within Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Throughout the project each and everyone of us hopes to learn and connect with the communities in the Downtown Eastside, including the centre’s own community of women and children. We believe this interaction will not only broaden our knowledge on issues women in the Downtown Eastside face, but will allow for our project to be more meaningful to us and the women who will be using the food service.

Team Goals

Through this project with working with the women’s centre, we we hope to gain an insight of what it is like working with vulnerable populations and communities – and how to use an Asset Based Community approach. We are so lucky to be working with , and we think that having the knowledge of how to properly work with a community is so important for the work we’re doing now and in the future, perhaps with other communities in the Downtown Eastside.

Project Overview

Our project will involve discussing ideas for a drop-in food program with residents in the surrounding community as well as people who are already use the organization’s other resources. Though we will be reviewing other food programs in the community, our goal is to create a report stating the needs and desires of the women and children at the centre to create a drop in program that will be positively impactful. In order to find out the needs of the woman there, we will be carrying out interviews to see what they would like to see in a food program. We hope to compile their feedback and then work with their available resources that are useful and wanted by women within the Downtown Eastside to propose a food program. We want our community project to also reflect the centre’s objectives: to focus on a harm reduction, anti – oppressive advocacy, and feminism, all in a safe and inclusive space at the centre. Communicating with the people who would use the resources the centre wants to provide for as a ground for development is necessary and meaningful because it allows the organization to fill unique needs and address needs in unique ways, perhaps better, and more fully. Through our interests in women’s health, food security, and community capacity building, we hope to be helpful community partners that can work with the community to implement a sustainable food program to improve food security in the neighbourhood. We want to participate and learn from the staff and patrons of the centre, to better our perspectives and help to see what it means to be thoughtful and proactive in nonprofit work of any kind.

In this project we will be using an Asset Based Community approach. This means we are supporting our community partner to make their own decisions with the resources they have. In addition to seeing what the women are looking for in a food program at the centre, we also want to see what is working for the women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in regards to food security at this time. Asset Based Community Development is helping communities to thrive through working with existing resources. This implementation can be very effective in the long term because it gives strength and independence to communities. This is significant as community members truly understand the community issues, thus with asset based community development, they can create viable changes that they deem necessary. We are not working with community partners to share our opinions and advice, we are there for support. We are so grateful to have learned about this approach in our LFS 350 classroom, the UBC Learning Exchange, and through Ernesto Sirolli’s TED Talk. In Ernest Castello’s TED Talk “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”, he talked about the importance of never showing up to a community with any idea of what you want to implement. The community you are working with has the knowledge of what needs to be done with their community to make a long lasting positive impact. So by showing up to a community with an idea of what needs to be done, you are already harming the community you want to be helping. This is why with our project with our community partner we will be summarizing the opinions of the women from the centre when creating a proposal for a food program, and not suggesting any ideas that do not reflect their needs and desires. Gottlieb and Joshi (2010) defined Food Justice as three areas that need to be be addressed which are “(i) seeking to challenge and restructure the dominant food system, (ii) providing a core focus on equity and disparities and the struggles by those who are most vulnerable, and (iii) establishing linkages and common goals with other forms of social justice activism and advocacy—whether immigrant rights, worker justice, transportation and access, or land use.” We understand that women using the centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are a vulnerable population that may or may not be food secure. We hope to follow this framework of food justice and hope that our work with the women’s centre will help restructure the women’s food system to be one that is more food secure. Christina and a few other students walked around the area (UBC Learning Exchange) after the initial session and visited an art gallery, which Christina had walked by many times before but never took notice to as an artistic space, proving immediately that our impressions are flimsy and that there will be so, so much to learn in the process of doing this project, of scales hard to imagine now and about things we can’t predict.


Gottlieb, R., & Joshi, A. (2010). Food Justice. MIT Press.