Time flies and we are on the last week of our project. As we anticipated, stress levels have risen again. Deadlines are beginning to pile up as the finish line is right ahead of us. So we are working hard to produce results that we will be proud of. Although this may be the last post from us, we want to make it a meaningful one by discussing another moment of significance that left a big impact on us and led us to what we will showcase in our presentation and final report.
A moment of significance that occurred in the course (and especially our project) was our collaboration with Lorraine Chow during the Food Bank Challenge. We initially planned on creating a recipe book based on uncommon foods that are not usually found in Western diets. Alongside, we would have been helping facilitate one workshop that focused on teaching community members how they could use the foods in their food bags. However, as a result of the collaboration, the direction of our project deliverable changed to one that our group and the Hastings Sunrise community partners agreed was more appropriate to the community – a food skills guide. The Food Bank Challenge was a one day event, located at the Thunderbird Community Centre, where our group, under the guidance and direction of Lorraine, was challenged to make a meal with only the items that a recipient would receive for that one week from the food bank. During the meet-up, Lorraine’s insight and experiences helped us realize that a food skills guide would be more beneficial in building community capacity in food security within the Hastings Sunrise community. By getting a more hands-on experience we were able to better understand the day-to-day challenges faced by those living with low-income and experiencing food insecurity.
Our new understanding that was gained from the change in our deliverable was that as we became more immersed in the project over time, the objectives became clearer, and we gained new insights that dictated the outcome of the project. Participating in the Food Bank Challenge was the moment where we wanted to re-evaluate the effectiveness of our initial deliverable. It was through the challenge that we were better able to understand the community’s food system as we were no longer simply theorizing the issue, but actually seeing it for ourselves, which is one of the main reasons why Lorraine wanted to invite us to her community kitchen. Questions we asked ourselves during the Food Bank Challenge were:
- How can we make a deliverable that is accessible to everyone in the community?
- Will it be understandable by all community members?
- Will it improve food skills?
- Will it be effective in accomplishing our ultimate goal for this project, which is enhancing food literacy?
Since the shift of our objectives came so late into the project, we had to adapt quickly and work efficiently in order to still meet the deadline. Reflecting back at our situation, we learned that no matter how clear a project may seem in the beginning, there will always be unpredictable instances and obstacles that will change the course of the project. In the beginning of the course, our instructor, Will Valley, mentioned the importance of being flexible when working with our community partners. We kept this in mind as the months went by and we believe that through this reminder, we were able to not be too flustered when change continually occurred throughout the project.
In evaluating the success of our project, the broader issue that needs to be considered is increasing access to healthy and affordable foods. In terms of food literacy, having knowledge of how foods can be prepared, cooked, and stored are essential for community members to be able to support themselves in their community food system. However, the knowledge cannot be applied if food choices are unavailable. Therefore, building community capacity is essential to building independence within the food system. To help initiate the process, we started a food skills guide. By attending the facilitator meeting and the Food Bank Challenge, we learned that some barriers people face are not knowing how to cook and/or not having the time, transportation, money, and childminding to obtain food and then cook a meal. However, they do know what a nutritious meal looks like and are interested in learning more. Therefore, by providing the knowledge to prepare common produce along with the knowledge of meal ideas, one would be better able to make a healthy meal.
To improve access to healthy and affordable foods, those doing the important work of advocating for improved accessibility should continue their endeavors. Moreover, municipal governments and planners should give convenience and grocery store owners as well as consumers incentives to ordering and purchasing healthy as opposed to unhealthy foods. However, potlucks can also be done where community members can combine their groceries with other members to make a meal, increase the variety in their diet, and widen the availability of kitchen equipment while decreasing the amount of time to cook meals. The idea is similar to the Lupii Community Cafe which we learned about at the facilitator meeting where they provide free community dinners in the Champlain Heights neighborhood. We hope that our food skills guide provides a template for the community to continue adding more to. Moreover, we hope the Instagram account along with the linked email can be used to receive more pictures that can be posted on the account to widen the geographic range of available inexpensive produce bags in the Lower Mainland.
However, we do acknowledge that there are limitations to the two deliverables in terms of their outreach. Both projects must be accessed via the internet which limits our audience. Therefore, a physical copy of the food skills guide should be made so people without access to the internet can use it. Furthermore, the locations of the dollar produce bags can be organized into a map. Community capacity building can also be addressed by creating a video on how to post pictures on Instagram so the account we created can be managed by community members.
Year 3 of the project will be continued in the coming spring term in which another LFS 350 group will pick up where we left off. We hope our report and collaboration over the past two and a half months will contribute, along with the next few LFS 350 groups, to the development and improvement of local food systems.
There has been a lot of effort and input put into this projects from our group members, community coordinators, and instructors. The challenges of integrating different perspectives of solving the current issues of food insecurity in Hastings Sunrise is a complex issue that cannot be covered and understood in just a few lectures. This project has broadened our views and thoughts on food security, which is the most valuable experience that we learned from this course. Though LFS 350 will end for us in one week, our contribution to this project and concerns about current issues on food security will still carry on.
University of Memphis. (2017). Module 5 – Capacity Building for Sustained Change. Retrieved from http://www.memphis.edu/ess/module5/index.php