All posts by Natasha Schwab

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.

Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear – Group Blog #2

Whoa, we’re half-way there…Whoa, (we’re not) livin’ on a prayer! Now that we are somewhat half-way through the term, we feel that we finally have a clearer idea of what exactly we will be researching for this project and how we will be going about this research. This was largely the result of completing our proposal, in which we determined our specific objectives and methods.

Previously, we had thought that aside from an assessment of kitchen infrastructure and the Legion’s food-related community programming, we would also need to identify methods that would improve the Legion’s operations, and develop specific activities and programs to implement at the Legion that would help meet the goals of Vancouver’s Food Strategy. To Natasha, this sounded daunting. Like the European farmers described by Jane Mt. Pleasant in the Deconstructing Dinner podcast, we are complete outsiders to the Legion culture and environment. Combined with the fact that we are undergraduate students with no experience developing community programs and strategies, how were we supposed to determine what was the ‘best’ choice for the Legion and the surrounding community? Even if we did develop a plan of action, how could it possibly be better than one developed by Legion staff and members themselves?

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After drafting our proposal and chatting with our TA, Colin, we then realized that we would need to simplify our objectives. Therefore, we decided that we will continue to assess the Legion’s kitchen infrastructure and food-related community programming, but we will analyze how they aid the Legion in meeting their organizational goals and those of the Vancouver Food Strategy instead. Whilst it did feel like we were ‘lowering the bar’ and choosing an easy way out, we had to come to terms with the fact that it would be close to impossible for us to have gathered and analyzed enough data to develop future programs and strategies within 2-3 months.

Weekly Objectives and Achievements:

To learn more about what we accomplished in weeks 1-3, check out blog post 1!

Week Four


  • Refine Blog Post based upon the TAs recommendations
  • Start crafting a proposal (Introduction, Background & Significance, Methods)


  • Submitted finalized Blog Post 1, incorporating the TA’s feedback
  • Completed a draft proposal to submit to the TA for feedback

Week Five


  • Complete a final copy of the proposal
  • Conduct a literature review on the Legion and ABCD to determine linkages
  • Research community partners
  • Delegate tasks for proposal


  • During tutorial we incorporated the TAs feedback into our proposal
  • Delegated sections of the proposal between group members for timely completion
  • Completion of TCPS II so that every member can conduct ethical research in the community

Week Six


  • Complete Blog Post 2
  • Decide a date to visit community partner
  • Assign roles for visit to community partner and determine tools needed


  • Submitted initial Blog Post 2 for feedback from TA
  • Determined date to visit our community partner

A Moment of Significance

What: Before attending the first flexible learning session at the West Point Grey Legion, legions seemed, at least to Philip, like exclusive bars that were only used as hangout locations for veterans. This posed a problem for our group as how are we supposed to propose an asset to increase community food security when the venue we are assessing is only limited to a certain demographic? The information presented at our meeting there however, completely changed our group’s perspective about the organization.

So What: Revelations, such as legion membership being open to almost anyone and the types of public programming held there made us understand how much more accessible the legion was, compared to what we previously thought. We recognized that programs, such as gift card distributions, help ensure food security and the affordable barbeques that are held by the Legions are valuable assets to the community.

Now What: This made us more excited about the community project we were engaging in – we realized the great variety and number of people within the community that could be positively affected by community programs in institutions akin to the Legion. Hopefully, our increased excitement will translate into a better work ethic, leading to a detailed and accurate assessment of Legion infrastructure.

Upcoming Objectives and Strategies

Moving forward we have a number of weekly objectives to meet. Within the next few days, we will determine a time that works for everyone in order to go and visit the Legion for data collection. Ideally, we plan to visit the Legion on a day when a food-related community program is taking place, so we can assess both the kitchen and the program. In order to complete our assessment, we will bring a blank log to record the type and number of the infrastructure present within the kitchen and use a camera to document kitchen conditions and avoid lapses in recall. During this visit we will also conduct interviews to gather information from Legion staff and members. Once this data has been collected, we will begin analyzing and coding data in order to determine common themes and information that will be used for our final reports, and ultimately for the Vancouver Food Strategy as well. However, Justin Nolan’s discussions with the grandmothers of Cherokee Nation in the Deconstructing Dinner podcast informed us that we must also be aware of how these traditional methods of conducting research may limit our understanding of the Legion food system. Thus, we should also consider and utilize unconventional, alternative methods of gathering data should they come our way. To make sure that we are able to meet all of our objectives, open and constant communication will be needed between group members. This will be done through facebook, email, and group meetings.

We know that things don’t always go according to plan, but hopefully, we have taken enough precautions to have a successful visit. If things do not go our way we will just have to keep the TED talk by Tim Harford in mind, and how any frustrations we encounter can make us more creative. For if things go smoothly it will certainly be less stressful for us, but this can also cause complacency, something that can be just as detrimental. We will just have to be prepared to work harder to overcome whatever problems come our way, and if need be “sit down and try and play the unplayable piano.”

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Where do we begin? – Group Blog #1

A group of penguins is called rookery, a group of snails is called a rout, and this group of LFS350 students is called a team! We (Alice, Mina, Yuan, Natasha, Kaitlyn and Philip) are all happy to make up the team of students that will be working with the Kerrisdale branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. We are a group of 3rd and 4th years at the University of British Columbia studying food, nutrition and health, applied biology and nutritional sciences. As a result, we have a diverse range of interests which include: dietetics, human health, food engineering, processing and manufacturing, food safety and veterinary medicine. Combined with our different educational and cultural backgrounds, it may seem that we have nothing in common except being in the same LFS350 class. This diversity is an asset rather than a liability, it’s what will take our group to the next level. Diversity breeds creativity and ensures that we will utilize different approaches and perspectives when we collect and analyze data.


Above: (in order from left to right) Yuan, Kaitlyn, Mina, Jiajia (Alice), Natasha and Philip.

Prior to LFS350, most of us did not know what a legion was! In Natasha’s case, this is what made her choose this project. Initially, the Royal Canadian Legion was an organization that provided support services exclusively to veterans; however, membership is now available to all members of the community. Legions have an important role in memorial and fundraising raising activities for veterans in Canada, most notably the Poppy Campaign. As there was nothing of the sort in Natasha’s hometown of Hong Kong, she wanted to learn more about what legions entailed and how their culture and food system influenced the surrounding community. Furthermore, as an aspiring dietetics major, this project would give Natasha the opportunity to learn more Canadian food system policies. This is the first time that any of us will be conducting research within the local community, so we hope to learn how to collect data from the public using a variety of different methods including interviews and on-site observations.

Couple weeks ago, we were granted the opportunity to meet the head of the West Point Grey Legion and learn about their method of operation. We were informed that they frequently hold community events, such as barbeques and meat draws, donating most of their profits to charity. They also provide Safeway gift cards and bursary funds to those in need. All of us were surprised by the variety of services the Legion provided to their community.

In this project, we will be analyzing the kitchen of the Kerrisdale Legion. This will include observing its current usage and condition, in order to determine  whether the kitchen has the potential to serve the community in other ways than it currently does. We will also be looking at the level of community interest around expanding food services and kitchen use, as well as how the Legion has helped improve food security within the community. We hope that we will be able to identify potential areas in which the Kerrisdale Legion can continue to improve community food security.

A topic that goes hand in hand with food security is the concept of food justice. According to, Food justice is defined as a community being able to exercise its right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Investigating whether community members in the Kerrisdale region have the ability to do this with the current Legion infrastructure as well as other community assets could prove valuable. If this framework does not currently exist, our group could brainstorm ideas regarding possible implementation. We could then provide our suggestions to leaders within the Legion community on how to proceed in order to make their food program more self sustainable, healthy and culturally appropriate.

In a TEDTalk, Ernesti Sirolli (2012) states “the first principle of aid is respect”. What he means is that when aid workers see a problem they think they can fix, they should listen and communicate with the people they are trying to help before jumping in and making changes.This resonated with us deeply. A needs-based approach, as Sirolli mentioned, often ends up creating a paternalistic or patronizing environment. This environment causes you to treat everyone like they are either your children or servants, and as a younger generation of students we are not immune to being treated like children. Thus, if we want to help our community we know this is something that needs to be avoided and therefore will focus on an asset-based approach using active listening and an open dialogue.

As a group of university students, the Legion staff and members will have a much better idea of what services and improvements the Legion is capable of than we would. Thus, we will start our project by visiting the legion, socializing with members, and observing how their food system functions. We want to learn how the kitchen and food related activities play a role in sustaining this Legion.

A needs-based approach pinpoints what a community is lacking. Asset-based community development (ABCD) on the other hand is recognizing existing strengths and assets, and using them to motivate the community to make a change (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). Consequently, ABCD will build and strengthen relationships between community members and prevent over-reliance on external sources. We will need to recognize the current strengths of the Legion and determine how to apply them to other areas. Later in the term, we will interview members of the Legion, analyse their experiences, how they feel about the benefits of the legion’s food system and ways to they think it could be improved. By doing so, we will be giving the members of the community the choice in how the Legion should operate in the future.


TEDTalks. Sirolli, E. (2012, November 26). Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! [Video file]. Retrieved September 24, 2016, from

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.