“One day at a time, this is enough. Don’t look back and grieve over the past for it is gone. Do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”
Our time as Team 14 x LFS 350 (2016 Winter) is officially coming to a close. It is a bittersweet farewell for every member, as we have grown together over the last 3 months – sharing memories and overcoming adversity as a group. We partnered with a unique organization in the West End neighbourhood of Vancouver, who recognized various forms of food insecurity in the community, such as the lack of accessibility and availability of food. The challenges we encountered were alleviated by making adjustments and accommodations with one another, which allowed us to critically analyze the qualitative data collected through in-depth interviews (IDI) (Kodish & Gittelsohn, 2011). We believe that this will transition into truly a ‘graceful dismount’ through a successful presentation on Monday. We hope you enjoy the Executive Summary of our project listed below and its journey from merely an idea to feasible and explorable options.
Health Initiative for Men (HIM) is a non-profit organization located in Vancouver’s West End. HIM strives to improve the physical, sexual, social, and mental health of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GM&OMSM). In partnership with the Gordon Neighbourhood house, HIM operates a community based food program called the Rainbow Soup Social, where participants gather once per week to make soup that is distributed through a community food hub. This weekly social event aims to use food as a tool in building and strengthening the social relationships within the community. This term, our LFS 350 group partnered with HIM and their Knowledge Translation Manager, Josh Edward, to make suggestions to improve participation and diversity within their Rainbow Soup Social.
To accomplish this, we conducted an in-depth literature review to assess peer-reviewed academic literature related to community food programs and social capital. The main objective of our literature review was to address the research question “how can community organizations use food as a means to build social capital and foster community development?” From our literature review, we discovered that community food programs such as the Rainbow Soup Social provide a safe and comfortable environment that bring people of different ethnicities and cultures together. However, it is important that community food programs reflect the needs and interests of program participants in order to be effective in providing social support and building social capital within the community. Additionally, our group conducted an interview with Josh to gain insight on how organizations such as HIM develop and implement programs and initiatives such as the Rainbow Soup Social.
With the findings presented in our literature review in combination with the interview, our second objective was to create a list of suggestions for HIM that may help to increase participation and participant diversity in community based food programs as well as how these programs can help to achieve their health promotion goals as an organization. Suggestions include ways to reduce barriers to participation, promotion of events through various social media outlets, as well as ways that food related initiatives can have a positive impact on the health and well being of participants.
Moments of Significance
As you may already know from reading our previous blog posts, there have been many changes to the scope of our project throughout this term. Using the “What? So What? Now What?” framework (Rolfe, Freshwater, & Jasper, 2001), we continue to reflect on the final moment of significant. Since our last blog post, there has been some minor changes to our project yet again. Although we did not get a chance to attend one of HIM’s Rainbow Soup Socials, we still managed to coordinate an in-depth interview with our community partner, after he graciously met over the Easter long weekend. This enabled us to collect more qualitative data on the organization and their short- and long-term goals, as well as, learn more about our community partner’s role as the Knowledge Translation Manager. This transitioned into seeing how the organization influenced the soup social, and subsequently the participants. Our next steps will be to use this information in collaboration with our research from the literature review, to make evidence-based recommendations on how HIM can reach out to and expand the level of participation for its Rainbow Soup Social.
Our project has changed multiple times throughout the term and as a group, we have encountered many obstacles and frustrations along the way. However, in light of these situations, it has offered us the opportunity to practice how to work together in an efficient manner within short time frames. The necessity to adapt to various changes relatively quickly enabled us to stay on track with our community project. This parallels the real world significantly, as projects and their related deadlines will not always go as originally anticipated or presented. Therefore, the willingness and ability to adapt to and work efficiently in a variety of situations are excellent skills to possess in any working environment.
Although we did not get to develop any promotional materials for HIM’s Rainbow Soup Social, the new direction serves as a good alternative, given that it fits our original intentions fairly well. Instead of reporting explicitly
We developed our final deliverable to revolve around the act of providing feasible recommendations for our community partner to review and possibly implement in their future meetings. These built upon underlying information sourced throughout the semester and the most recent knowledge from our IDI, to ensure that they aligned with the organization’s short- and long-term goals. Referencing academic literature, a few common trends were observed, including: the difficulty in determining how the local food systems control to the development of social capital within the community and its reciprocated nature, or vice-versa (Glowacki-Dudka, Murray, & Isaacs, 2013); the benefits attributed to the presence and knowledge of available initiatives and programs to impact a community in positive way, regardless of their social and economic statuses (Flach, 2010); and being cognizant of the standardized meaning behind the term ‘support’ and the perceptions of, and believed availability for a certain community, should they be in a position to provide adequate and suitable support to the LGBTQ and GM&OMSM communities (Barker, Herdt, & de Vries, 2006). In light of this, we created the ‘General Community Framework’ which outlined the following components:
- Area of Concern
- Academic Approach
- Social (‘Grey’ Literature) Approach
- Personal Suggestions/Rationale
We felt that our focuses and their subsequent suggestions may be applicable in HIM’s future solutions. As one of the measures of success that we originally proposed was “[c]reating a lasting impression on our partner and their external audience”, so if even one suggestion is seriously considered (or modified) and put into practice, the group would see this semester a success.
Despite the group not being able to collect as much data relative to the other community projects, we openly embrace the valuable experience this project has provided for us. In our attempt to decipher the trends observed in our collected data, we made it a necessity to bridge the gap between community groups and academic literature when making some of their influential decisions. One important take-home message from this course would be the priority of considering the stakeholders’ and participants’ perspectives in a community setting, especially when we are employing the interdisciplinary approach to our problem-solving arsenal. This is one of the tenets of Asset-Based Community Development, which is especially critical with appreciative inquiry (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). This additional frame of reference will be beneficial when incorporating the principles of Asset-Based Community Development in our future endeavours. The various skills we have developed to overcome the numerous challenges of this project are applicable in future situations that we may each encounter.
Final Good Bye
As the end quickly approaches, Group 14 would like to take this time to officially sign off.
It has been a pleasure reporting to you, our great audience, about the semester-long adventure that we embarked on together. Thank you for being such a supportive group through our times of joy, and trials and tribulations.
Barker, J. C., Herdt, G., & de Vries, B. (2006). Social support in the lives of lesbians and gay men at midlife and later. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 3, 1-23.
Flachs, A. (2010). Food for Thought: The Social Impact of Community Gardens in the Greater Cleveland Area. Electronic Green Journal, 1, 1-9.
Glowacki-Dudka, M., Murray, J., Isaacs, K. (2013). Examining social capital within a local food system. Community Development Journal, 48, 75.
Kodish, S., & Gittelsohn, J. (2011). Systematic Data Analysis in Qualitative Health Research: Building Credible and Clear Findings. Sight and Life, 25, 52–56.
Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13, 474–486.
Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., & Jasper, M. (2001). Critical Reflection for nursing and the helping professions: A user’s guide. London: Palgrave Macmillan.