November 2016

The beginning and the end – Group blog #4

To quote Ivy Baker Priest, “The World is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.” Whilst it is time to say goodbye, we truly feel the end of this group project only marks beginning of our impact upon society as LFS students. Prior to LFS 350 and this community project, we only had vague idea of what food security, food sovereignty and food justice meant. Now, not only do we have a better understanding of what these terms mean, but we also have come to comprehend how they play a role in determining our local and global food systems. Furthermore, we now recognize how our food system is intrinsically linked with the economy, community, government, and environment. Armed with this knowledge, we believe that we are better prepared to start making our mark upon society by helping address inequalities and create a sustainable food system for all.

Currently, our main objectives are completing our final report and infographic. To be honest, it amazes Natasha how 12 weeks worth of hard work can be condensed into a 21 by 30 inch infographic or a 1500 word report. Whilst our infographic captures our results, it fails to capture the countless hours spent researching, writing and reflecting on our findings, the fear and anxiety we felt when we were turned away by Legion staff and the stress and difficulty of balancing a research project along with other coursework and responsibilities. That being said, these challenges have brought us closer together as a group and made it a truly rewarding learning process.

As described in blog 3, our initial visit to the legion felt like a disaster. We were met with hostility in our attempt to collect data regarding the legion’s kitchen, one of the main focus points of our project, and did not manage to collect any data on the kitchen infrastructure whatsoever.

Our second visit to the legion was not much of a success either. Despite the consent of the Legion president, the kitchen staff still refused to cooperate. The staff avoided answering our questions and did not allow us to enter the kitchen. Therefore, we could only observe and take photos of available infrastructure through the pass window.

So What?
Upon realizing that our entire project may be in jeopardy, our group began to stress about the direction our project was heading. Would we have enough data to analyze and meet our project objectives? How can we draw any conclusions about the kitchen when we had only seen it through a 3 by 5 feet window? This experience illustrated to us the difficulty and reality of community research. With so many external variables, things do not always go according to plan, even when you think you are prepared for every possible scenario.

Now What?
In the midst of our panic, we forced ourselves to sit back and regroup. We reflected upon the data we did manage to collect and explored different avenues for our project. This hurdle illustrated the need for flexibility in the community research process and how we must learn to work with what we have. Furthermore, as outsiders who have the privilege to work within a community, we cannot assume that we have the communities trust – it must be earned. Thus, it is critical that we listen to their voices and needs first, and not assert ours over theirs.

Luckily, we were able to set up a meeting with the Legion’s president and obtain some of the data we were lacking from our initial visit. During this meeting, we kept appreciative inquiry in mind and used it as a primary means of gaining data to use in our asset-based community development. Our opportunity to use this technique demonstrated to us how effective and important it is to listen to our community partners in order to come up with sustainable solutions. Our initial experience may have provided us with a lot stress and uncertainty, but it allowed us to explore more creative solutions, giving us the opportunity to play the unplayable piano (Harford, 2016).

Psst…something silly to close off this semester:


A not so leg(ion)dary first visit – Group Blog #3

Dreams and expectations are a little like soap bubbles. From a distance, they are beautiful to look at, but when you get too close, they burst and sting your eyes. Our experience at the Legion was similar. We had gone to the Legion on a quiet, rainy Friday afternoon, expecting to feel welcomed by staff and members alike. We tried our best to fit in – playing pool, darts, and even participating in the meat draw (For your information: we did not win anything), but whilst they were polite, there was an obvious divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

picmonkey-collage2With this ‘outsider’ status, we found it very hard to conduct our research, which we intended to be primarily interview-based. Many members, whilst willing to engage in conversations, were not willing to participate in formal interviews. There were only two staff present, both of whom did not want to participate in our research. The staff did not appear to be aware that the Legion was our community partner either, and when asked about kitchen operations even told Natasha that it was “none of your business” and that she needed to “quit asking”. At that moment, Natasha was shocked speechless. Never before had someone, not to mention a stranger, spoken to her in such a harsh manner, and all Natasha could do was stare, mouth agape, before stammering out an apology.

Now, we have come to realize the reality of community based research, – it is far from glamorous. People are wary of researchers and outsiders, making us the worst possible combination. As a result, we are faced with the task of redeveloping our research methods, and possibly our objectives. With so few staff and members willing to be interviewed, it is likely we are going to have to rely on our observations of Legion activity and casual conversations with members instead. Since the staff were unwilling to disclose any information, we will likely be unable to assess kitchen infrastructure and can only analyze the community food-related programs offered at the Legion.  

Objectives + Achievements

To learn more about what we accomplished in weeks 1-6, check out our previous posts!


Moments of Significant Change

Initially, our group was much more confident about our proposal skills than we had any right to be. We were all inexperienced in this area, but believed that the task we had been presented with was manageable. However, we slowly realized the magnitude of our inexperience – we weren’t sure just how much detail was expected, what each section should include and the difference between objectives and inquiry questions. After receiving feedback from our TA Colin, we realized that we had embarked onto a train that was going in the wrong direction. We tried to rectify this, and put quite a bit of time and effort into our final draft, which we were felt was a good attempt for our first ever proposal. The grades we received however, tanked this confidence. After reviewing our feedback and completing some of other written assignments, our confidence regarding proposal writing has now begun to slowly rise again.

At the start of the semester, we were eager to learn and analyze the connections between food, health, and the environment using a food justice perspective. However, after the first class, we found some of the concepts introduced to be quite challenging and did not completely understand terms, such as “food justice” and “food sovereignty”. As a result, we began to doubt whether we would do well in this course. This lack of confidence increased after our first quiz. Although we had all done the required readings in preparation, we still scored poorly. After receiving low scores in both our first quiz and proposal, we really wanted to improve our grades, so we tried to maintain a positive mindset and write a high quality first blog post. Upon submission, we were very anxious – our TA seemed like a hard marker and we really wanted to impress him. Combined with it being midterm season and the constant stream of assignments, all of us were quite on edge.

Our first Legion visit was very difficult. We felt like outsiders, the staff and customers were reluctant to answer our questions, and we were denied access to the kitchen. That day we walked away with very little information and quite a bit of disappointment, but we knew we had to keep going. Thus, we contacted the Kerrisdale Legion president, Sid Harrison, and set up a formal meeting on November 4th. Sid’s friendly demeanor and willingness to answer our questions has given us hope that we can tackle this project. We will try our best to stay positive despite the difficult obstacles we face, and continue to work together to end this semester on a good note.

At the beginning of the term, we thought we had a good idea about what our community project would entail, based on what we had heard from friends who had taken the course previously. However, after our first class, we weren’t quite sure what was expected of our project in particular and just how we would go about assessing the Legion. Luckily, the visit to the Point Grey Legion provided us with some much needed background information about Legion history and operation.

However, with our rocky start at the Kerrisdale Legion, we felt that we would not be able to gather sufficient data to complete our project. Immediately, we consulted Will and Colin and their advice has definitely helped us find other ways to go about our research and how we can present our findings. We have also set up a meeting with the president of the Kerrisdale Legion for November 4th. Hopefully, he will be able to answer our questions and provide us with sufficient information to complete our final report and presentation.

The research we have completed individually for our academic and experiential review paper has illustrated to our limited knowledge of food justice issues in Canada. Hopefully we will all have a better understanding of our respective issues after completing our papers.

Strategies for Successful Project Completion

As we finish data collection, we need to start thinking about our final report and infographic. In order to do so, we must interpret and evaluate the data to discern what assets the Legion possesses, as we will be utilizing asset-based community development. We will first determine which attributes of the Legion are valuable to the Vancouver Food Strategy and continue analyzing from there. Once completed, we will delegate aspects of the final report and project amongst our group members to ensure an equal distribution of the workload. In order to make sure we are on task we will continue to meet up and communicate through Facebook and email. The course learning objectives will be used as guidelines for our assignments in the coming weeks, and we will do our best to adhere to them.

After our difficult first visit to the Legion, we are hoping that the meeting with the President will provide us with the assets needed to complete our asset-based community development project. Although things didn’t go according to plan originally, it has provided us with the opportunity to approach our problems with a revised and creative mindset. Hopefully this new mindset will translate into a more insightful final product.