We are so relieved to have been successful in completing our project, particularly after the difficulties that we had earlier this term. In this post, we will start off by presenting the executive summary of our report and then reflect on another moment of significance!
This project evaluated the accessibility, functionality and programming of non-city owned community kitchens in the City of Vancouver in order to provide suggestions to the City of Vancouver so that improvements can be made to these kitchens as per the Vancouver Food Strategy. Our project was conducted in the Strathcona area of Vancouver. Strathcona is characterized by a higher proportion of vulnerable populations than the city average as well as lower socioeconomic status (Downtown Eastside Kitchen Tables, 2012). In order to conduct our evaluation we used a set of questions created by the City of Vancouver and surveyed the managers of the kitchens to assess the equipment available, the number of users, its accessibility to the public as well as to those with disabilities, the level of programming at the kitchen and the interest for further programming. We also conducted on-site observations about the physical state of the kitchen, which we also considered in our recommendations.
We found that, on average, kitchens in Strathcona were less child-friendly than those in Vancouver at large. In addition, we found that programming in Strathcona was more focused on skill-building workshops than the wider array of programming offered in Vancouver at large. Furthermore, the community kitchens in Strathcona tended to be more focused on providing meals to the participants of the kitchens rather than have their kitchen be accessible to the public. Also, the community kitchens in Strathcona tended to be more staffed by volunteers than kitchens throughout Vancouver. One issue that we identified that may impact the access of these kitchens is that some of the kitchens had off-site meal provision which has an impact for individuals who do not have continued access to transportation.
Despite these results, we had several limitations to our study. Firstly, we had a very small sample size at only six kitchens within the Strathcona area. Additionally, we were limited by the community kitchens that had an online presence and were willing to be surveyed by our student team. Finally, we were limited by what the kitchen managers were willing to share with us. It is unlikely that our results encompass the full picture.
We separated our recommendations into three broad categories: improving kitchen equipment, improving accessibility, promoting programming to assist the particulars of the Strathcona population.
Moment of Significance
Our final moment of significance for this term was the accomplishment of finishing our project after the multitude of challenges that we had experienced throughout the term working as a team. This was mainly through miscommunication issues. At the beginning of the term, we did not act as a unit which led to difficulties in completing tasks in a timely and efficient manner. Once we started to re-organize our tasks and set specific deadlines for project components, this improved. In addition, we had some disagreements on how to do and present the project generally. Despite these challenges, we were one of the few groups within our community project at large that contacted and surveyed six kitchens in our area. This indicates that our team, despite having its difficulties, was able to persevere and survey a higher number of kitchens.
This is important for our future academic and post-university careers. Working in a team is an important part of our future careers and by going through these challenges as a team and pushing through them, this taught us a lot both individually and as a group about how to work as a team. Further, it emphasized the importance of balancing working independently to finish individual deadlines as well as working together as a unit. It also pushed us outside of our comfort zone by working in a larger team than we are typically used to. The fact that we had to go out into the community and interact with community actors pushed us to work collaboratively because we were the only ones who could take responsibility for our project.
We found two connections between this moment of significance and the learning outcomes for LFS 350: one is about the importance of community-based projects and the other is about teamwork. In Session 6, we listened to a podcast by Sisonke Msimang where she discussed what she learned from intensively listening to her friend during a conversation (Msimang, 2015). In the podcast, she talked about how she wanted to help her friend, but in order to do so effectively she had to really listen to what her friend wanted and needed, which was not her first approach(Msimang, 2015). This has parallels with our project. Before starting the project, we had an idea about what we thought the community kitchens would be and would want. However, once we started surveying the kitchen coordinators we realized that our initial impression was false. The help that they needed was very specific: they knew what and how they wanted to improve. In Session 12, we listened to a TED Talk by Howard Rheingold where he discussed how there should be a synergistic effect as a result of people collaborating (Rheingold, 2008). He elaborated on this by discussing how group work can not only lead to better outcomes for the group as a whole but also for each individual member (Rheingold, 2008). This is important in the context of our team since we are all coming from different backgrounds with different expectations about what this project would be. After we realized that we should be working as a unit rather than a collection of individuals, our work greatly improved so that we could successfully finish the project.
Thanks for reading!
Group 21: Vincent, Winnie, Stephanie, Rita, Jeanne and Wen
Downtown Eastside Kitchen Tables. (2010). A Community Led Food Action Plan: Phase 1, Final Report and Action Plan. Retrieved from: http://dteskitchentables.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/DTES-Kitchen-Tables-Community-Action-Plan-Phase-1-FINAL-REPORT.pdf
Msimang, S. (2015, Apr). A pragmatic Idealist. The Moth. Retrieved from: http://themoth.org/posts/stories/a-pragmatic
Rheingold, H. (2008, Feb). The new power of collaboration. TED Talk. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/howard_rheingold_on_collaboration?language=en#t-1150938