“Food brings us together and can act as a vehicle for community-building.”
-Food Philosophy of GNH
We are a group of 5 students from Land and Food Systems at UBC who are dedicated to contributing to our local food system. In spite of our team members coming from different backgrounds and majors, we hope that through this project we will be able to incorporate different perspectives, that will allow us to create a well-rounded, prominent, and feasible outcome. Here we will be sharing our exciting journey with Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH).
Meet the Team
From left to right in the photo above, we have Melanie Newman, Audrey Valerio, Natalie Goh, Demi Wu and Fifi Zhu. We are group #8 and GNH’s vegan meal planners! We come from a diverse background of majors, with Audrey in GRS, Melanie in Dietetics, Demi and Fifi in Food, Nutrition and Health, and Natalie in Nutritional Sciences. As a whole we are interested in the many aspects of food, including sustainable agriculture, nutrition assessments, cooking, baking and, of course, eating. In our spare time, some of us enjoy staying active by doing pilates and getting outside to ski.
Our reasons for choosing this project
As a group, we are looking forward to getting involved with the community, in a hands on project. We believe this will be an excellent opportunity to apply the concepts we have learned in lectures and course readings to real-life, local situations. We are hoping to gain experience in scaling up recipes for 35 people, using only $25-35 per meal. It will also be an opportunity for us to gain knowledge on vegan meals and how we can plan them to be the most nutritionally adequate for the target population. We anticipate this project will connect us with the local community and allow us to learn more about nutritious vegan diets. We would like to inspire the people that will be consuming our meals to try new foods and explore different options when cooking at home to encourage healthy eating habits that will meet their nutritional needs.
We chose this project since all of us love food and cooking! We want to explore how food can affect a person’s everyday life, and observe how GNH provides this service to the community. Our goal is to create our own vegan recipes that can help locals around GNH to improve their personal health and food literacy. At the same time, we would like to apply what we have learned from class, practice our cooking and planning skills, and do what we can with our skills as LFS students to benefit our community. We believe this will be an excellent opportunity for us to connect with our community outside UBC and learn more about the nutritive aspects of vegan diets.
Our community organization: Gordon Neighbourhood House
Our community organization is Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), located in the West End of Vancouver. GNH is committed to increasing access to healthy and adequate food for everyone and to using “food to nourish our community” (Gordon Neighbourhood House, 2017). GNH believes in creating a vibrant community through engaging with urban farms, local businesses and policy makers. Within the last couple of years, food services have become a main focus for GNH and have been a way of bringing the community together in a welcoming environment while helping people improve their health and food literacy.
Our project objectives
After meeting with our community partner, we hope to achieve the following objectives:
- Based on the nutrition assessments done by LFS students last term, brainstorm and create 3-5 new recipes that fits the Food Philosophy of GNH, kitchen space, budget, food availability and community needs.
- Help scale up existing Indian recipes to suit 35 people using a budget of $25-35 per meal.
- Research on food resources in the West End.
- Utilize produce grown in the GNH garden, in the vegan meals.
Our first impressions of process-to-date
On January 22 2018, our group met up with our community partner, Gordon Neighbourhood House, to discuss the details of our project, our responsibilities, as well as the objectives we should aim for by the end of this project. Gordon Neighbourhood House, a community hub in Vancouver’s West End, strives to ensure a vibrant and active community in the West End of Vancouver whereby everyone is entitled to play a dynamic role in civil society (Gordon Neighbourhood House, 2017). As a place-based community organization, they work together with their community, sister organizations, local businesses as well as policy-makers to vitalize and assist active programs, services and initiatives that respond to the needs and dreams of the community (Gordon Neighbourhood House, 2017). Additionally, Gordon Neighbourhood House is designed in a way that residents in the West End of Vancouver can treat the area as an extended living room, dining room, and kitchen on a daily basis.
After our meeting with Katelyn, the community programmer, our group now has a clearer idea on what is expected of us and what we should be providing to Gordon Neighbourhood House at the end of this term. We discussed the types of recipes that they want to scale up, the number of recipes we should come up with, as well as the types of ingredients we should incorporate into the recipes. We must keep in mind that the individuals in the community are the experts and that we are here to help them enhance their best qualities. Therefore, we need to consider the nutritional status of local residents, availability of local foods and GNH’s budget in order to create suitable healthy vegan recipes to enhance the nutritional quality of the meals.
We can offer our suggestions, but at the end of the day we must work alongside the community and the individuals of GNH. As experienced by Ernesto Sirolli, having experts come into the community, perform their work and leave, has not been successful. Instead, we need to approach the project by assisting those in the community to discover their assets. This is part of the reason why we are wanting to integrate some of the produce harvested from the GNH community garden in our meal plans. By doing this, we are using an asset of GNH to enhance another component of their community. When community members or organizations come together by combining beneficial assets, the positive effects of increasing food literacy and security will be able to spread over multiple areas and members of the community.
The insight from Ernesto Sirolli’s Ted talk was eye opening for us, as we are more accustomed to typical research that involves individuals trying to solve a problem, using the scientific method, and not focusing on the communities assets. We want to use an asset based approach in our project, but also recognize this is the first time we are using this method, and that we may need to be more conscious of how we are performing our work.
As mentioned in Mathie and Cunningham’s paper, called From clients to citizens: Asset-based community development as a strategy for community driven development, ABCD focuses on “formal and informal associations” (p.479). This is a very relevant concept and can be seen in our project. We will need to reference local supermarkets to realistically price and prepare the meals within the given budget. Therefore, we may need to work with local businesses to develop our recipes, which could potentially strengthen the relationship between GNH and local businesses. The more connections and communication that occurs between stakeholders and community members, the better the needs of the community can be identified and met. In addition, both organizations are benefitting and using each others assets to further one another.
Additionally, as mentioned in Ernesto Sirolli’s Ted talk, food justice represents “a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities”, and we feel that Gordon Neighbourhood House is working towards this image of food justice. By creating a welcoming, neutral environment that is available to anyone, GNH provides a centralized collection of resources intended to improve the local food system. They are currently providing lunches from Mondays to Thursdays as a chance for community members to mingle with different people and catch up with friends over a low-cost, accessible meal. By offering to the community these affordable and high-nutrition lunches, they play a part in eliminating disparities and inequities between the food secure and the vulnerable members of the community. Showing community members easy and inexpensive ways to reach their nutritional requirements instills positive habits and spreads food literacy among those using GNH’s services in the West End.
We, as LFS students, play an important role in ensuring that the new vegan recipes we develop are not only nutritious but at the same time delicious. By doing so, our group hopes that the community members will develop an interest in learning more about new foods and herbs they never knew about, and through this broaden their knowledge so that they are able to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for themselves and their families in the future. Food literacy describes a person’s knowledge on the food system, including the production, preparation and wastage of food. Without food literacy, people may be turning to unhealthy foods due to financial limitation while they are unaware of information and resources that could provide them with healthier, more accessible food. Thus, we believe this project is one of increasing food literacy, that will aim to improve the knowledge of people in the community on how to prepare food, provide their body with nutrients, and avoid food waste.
Our main goals for this project are to create 3-5 vegan recipes for GNH to serve at their Meatless Mondays and to scale up their existing recipes. Our next step will be to visit GNH to assist and observe one of their community lunches, preferably on a Meatless Monday where the vegan meals we will be evaluating and scaling will be served. This will aid us in gaining insight on what a typical meal looks like at GNH, what type of food they serve and what ingredients are available to us, to incorporate into our recipes. We also will get a better picture of why GNH chooses the ingredients and food they do, and how the community reacts to and benefits from the served meals. We will discuss the types of food GNH usually receives from local farms, grocery stores, markets, and donations, if any, with the GNH staff, volunteers and chef. With this, we are eager to get started on our project and assist GNH in developing healthy vegan meals for the community!
Gordon Neighbourhood House. (2017). Food Philosophy-GordonHouse.org. Retrieved Janurary 21, 2018, from http://gordonhouse.org/about-gordon-neighbourhood-house/right-to-food/
Gordon Neighbourhood House. (2017). Mandate and Vision-GordonHouse.org. Retrieved February 5, 2018 from https://gordonhouse.org/about-gordon-neighbourhood-house/mandate-vision/
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. Retrieved February 5, 2018 from http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/doi/pdf/10.1080/0961452032000125857?needAccess=true
Sirolli, E. (2012). Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM