Blog Post 4: A Blog Post To End Them All

Welcome to the final blog in our 4-part series (*cue party horn*)! Our 3 month LFS journeythe brain-child of critical epistemologist Will Valley—will draw its curtains next week (*party horn fades into silence*).  And quite frankly, we feel a little ripped off by the whole experience (*cue audience gasp*).


“Why”? You may ask.


“Well”, we respond. “LFS 350 is supposed to be an experience tantamount to the realities of community food system work. Our previous blogs have touched on how that epitomizes the discomfort and uncertainty that is effectively botched out of traditional curricula.


“We have heard the accounts of students lamenting their LFS 350 placements, overwhelmed with their community partners or projects. A myriad of reasons may have triggered this: from too much work being planned by the community partner for a 4 month course, to too little planned work being planned by the community partners to allow students to write/present with. The confluence of discomfort and uncertainty is clear. But with the gamut of emotions Dr. Will has structured this course to expose us to (much like the way a bullet train “exposes” itself to an unsuspecting squirrel on the train tracks), our experience has been relatively vanilla”.


It’s true. We attribute much of this to our shockingly clear and fairly scoped term project. It is clear our community partners are aware of the capabilities and limitations of a short-term student project. There have been no issues with communication, and often periods of time where any form of communication seems negligible.


Of course,  it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Our group was not somehow exempt from moments of frust
ration. For example, we will be presenting on a project this week that is not yet even completed! In our project proposal, we expected to have been able to test the publicized project by now. Woops.


While we scurry to dot our final “i”’s on the term, dismounting gracelessly, we are once again reminded to reflect on the moments that this project has given rise to. As a group, we are tempted to take a macro-based approach, seeking to think about our feelings from start-to-end, and verbalize our growth in words. As well, we hope to reflect on some challenges to time management. We will utilize the “what/so what/ now what” framework to help guide our reflections.


4 Months Older, 4 Months Wiser


Semester Summarized

As the term progressed, we learned how to work more efficiently as a team. Through trial-and-error, we learned how to delegate work fairly and effectively. First impressions of the course left us wondering how a group of 6 people could equitably split work on assignments such as project proposals, with naturally low word counts. We had to learn to judge a team member’s contributions in ways that are less objective than assigning x amount of words to each member. Instead, we opted to delegate portions based on the strengths of team members. Those who may contribute less in an objective sense, could contribute more in future assignments.


Previous blogs mentioned our “couples-based” delegation of data collection for the food map. This approach has proven itself efficient, leading us to not only verifying but also expanding the asset database considerably well. Also, setting soft deadlines on tasks in each step of the project, we managed to mostly stay on top of things despite our busy school/work schedules.  


Time Management

There is still room for improvement. One specific moment of significance that we have embraced as we approach our infographic presentation is that our database has not yet been finalized. This moment reflects the challenges of time management innate within this course (and we suspect, project work in general). Even acknowledging our prognoses of the final weeks inevitably being busier than usual, we were still challenged with having things come together on time.


So what?

Semester Summarized

The increased productivity exemplified through our adjustments not only gave us the satisfaction of accomplishment but also made us realize how much our group has grown since our the beginning of our semester. Are initial instincts were to divide and conquer. This approach holds the benefit of evading collaboration and the risk of discomfort is may cause; but is ultimately a restricting approach. We began to realize this only after surmounting the initial discomfort associated with teamwork, and cohesiveness became an asset. We acknowledge that there are few jobs in the real world, especially food system work, that do not necessitate interpersonal team dynamic collaboration. There’s no doubt that we have grown stronger in a professional sense, and have also developed bonds with each other through our shared experiences.


Time Management

Regarding our challenges to time management, we believe we may need improvement in fabricating realistic time deadlines. Given the novel nature of our project, it was not likely nor expected of us to make perfect assumptions. Ultimately, we are still at fault and are made to live with the consequences of this.


Now what?

Semester Summarized

Even though we will soon be taking off our LFS 350 hats, our journeys to make meaningful change in the food system and within our disciplines has only begun. Our perceptions of influence must not waiver. The skills developed in this course are conducive to success not only in pursuing food justice, but also more generally in our future careers. Also by carrying these valuable skills to our future opportunities we hope to apply these skills and the earned knowledge to better understand the problems and try to overcome future struggles. There is a consensus that this course equipped us with the opportunity to develop skills outside of the classroom that cannot be offered by most other courses. Greater than that, the course has instilled us with a sense of validation and agency that cannot be paralleled by other courses.


Time Management

Though it may be a bit late to commit to changes for this project, we can expect to deal with similar project dynamics in the future. Thus, we should heed a few lessons from this experience. The first is to provide a little more wiggle room for soft deadlines. Not knowing the nature of your work makes it difficult to impose perfect deadlines. Secondly, it may be wiser to impose more comprehensive follow ups within the group, just to ensure fluidity and comfort amongst all group members.


Signing Off
It is with immense gratitude that we express the ending of our blog series. We hope our word-pictures have given our readers a sense of our journey. Furthermore, we hope we have inspired others to embrace their own community projects, as there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained if you allow yourself to be aware of it!

Blog Post 3: Strategies for a Graceful Dismount

Welcome to the third blog entry in our four-part blog series! Much like this blog series, we are about 75% into our course here in LFS 350. The last quarter may well be the busiest! In today’s entry, we have some exciting updates to share. As well, we hope to explore a plan for how to tackle the last bit of the project with the same degree of ferocity we have engaged in thus far. Need more proof of said ferocity? Continue reading!


Weekly Objectives and Achievements

The Municipal Hall in all its glory.

On Thursday, March 9th, three of our group members attended the North Shore Table Matters Network roundtable meeting at the District of North Vancouver Municipal Hall. The trio provided a short presentation on our project and discussed our progress with our community partners. It was an immensely gratifying experience. In a boardroom emblazoned with North Shore food system veterans, for but a brief moment we were the experts. And the responses of the board members were a multitude of emotions ranging from enthusiasm to curiosity to candid appreciation. They seemed quite impressed to hear that our updated database of food assets had nearly doubled in size in respect to the original—from 50 recorded food assets to over 90!


Though our meeting was—in the essence of briefness—well, brief, our project managed to spark some questions and discussion. This allowed us to find answers to some of our own questions we were facing, including who best to contact to obtain information about certain food assets, and how to search for those which were not already available on the internet. More than anything else though, the receptiveness from our community partners really evoked a sense of perspective for us. This notion that this project can be profoundly useful to the community has now been reinforced by professionals in the community itself, providing our group with an unparalleled sense of validation. This will keep us propelled as we prepare for the completion of our project (more on this below, by the way).

Approaching the denouement of our journey, it is now more crucial than ever to stay on top of our weekly goals. Our main goal has largely been centered around the completion of the food asset database. As we are also approaching the deadline of our individual term papers (and midterms in other courses), it is acknowledged that the database may receive a little less love this week. With this in mind, however, we have outlined the ingredients to the cocktail that is the final few weeks of our project (more on this below), and it is becoming evident that completing more now will give us  more time to flesh out our final poster presentation (more on this soon!).


Moments of Significant Change Workshop


In our fifth tutorial session, our group was asked to reflect on moments of significant change that we have encountered throughout the term, and to draw two graphs representing the trajectory of our emotions and learning as we faced these moments over time. This fun and engaging activity really helped us to visualize how we have grown as a group, and especially how the challenges of project work have shaped and reshaped our experience in LFS 350. As a group, we decided that many of the moments that were significant to our personal, group, and project development were our interactions with our community partners, doing our project work, and the assignments we have had to complete for the course. While plotting these graphs, our team realized that most of the members did not enjoy writing the blogs or project proposal as much as they enjoyed gathering data and interacting with the community. However, everyone agrees that these tasks and activities helped them gain a better knowledge and understanding through reflection on our project work.

The above left graph shows the change in group members’ attitudes and emotions, along a spectrum from positive to negative, over the course of the semester. The above right graph shows our knowledge gain over time. The X-axis is organized around some of the moments of significant change we encountered as the term went on.


After completing our graph and looking at other groups’ charts we realized that we were not the only group that felt discomfort during the times we had an assignment due; be they blogs, quizzes or papers. Realizing that almost all of the groups were faced with challenges and struggled emotionally at the times of submission gave us comfort not because we saw others struggling, but because it helped us acknowledge that this course was perhaps designed in a way to expose us to messy situations and anxiety, which are necessary stepping stones for us to grow and learn from such situations in order to succeed in our future goals (Freakonomics, 2015). As Shulman mentions, these anxieties felt during group work will not only teach us the ways to cope with the raised tensions, but also prepare us for experiencing and working with such tensions in the future, as professionals (Shulman, 2005).

Other groups like ours seemed to agree that, since the beginning of this term, the amount of knowledge they acquired increased considerably throughout the term; first at a high rate, slowing down as the term progressed. Perhaps this is an indication that this course is designed to equip us with more than just academic knowledge, transcending traditional pedagogy in order to provide learning through experience. This course begins by developing contextual issues around food security and food system sustainability, and then challenges us to engage this knowledge within the context of our community projects. Shulman (2005) mentions that learning for the sake of application not only requires a process of commitment and knowledge-formation that dichotomizes traditional learning, but amplifies the learning experience when included in real-world application. We can attest to this through the gratification exemplified in our Table Matters board meeting presentation.  Furthermore, we feel that as we continue to work together with each other and with our community partners in a real-world setting, we are breaking away from the limits of learning by being exposed to risk and uncertainty (Shulman, 2005). This challenges each of us to think differently while we work towards our goal.  We believe this way of thinking is indicative of workplace realities and more conducive to community change than simply possessing academic ways of knowing on its own.


The Graceful Dismount

As we are getting closer to last weeks of this term, it is necessary that our group come up with a set deadline for data collection to ensure that the project is completed in a timely manner.To make things more efficient with data collection, we have divided up into groups of two and each group has taken two categories to work on. This way we can get through more categories and help our community partner more. We plan to meet and report our progress regularly in order to keep up with each other and make sure everyone is on the right path. Eventually we plan to have a final meeting before everything is done to have a final look before submission.  Our goal it to finish data collection for the food asset database within the next two weeks, after which our community partners will launch the online map.

As a group, we hope to be able to test this map in the North Shore community once is has been publicized, whereupon we may get a sense of how effective a tool it can be for helping community members locate and access food assets. We will test the tool to evaluate how user-friendly it is individually; however, figuring out how to test out its reach within the community is something that is still very much up for debate. Although we have some ideas, the opinion of our community partner will ultimately guide us. Will we reach out to South Vancouver Neighborhood House (or other organizations that emphasize community food security) and ask them to spread the word/use it for future projects? Or will we find ourselves back at our original meeting spot at Lonsdale Quay soliciting to the public? And furthermore, how can we better reach people that may not be reached through either approach—under the time constraints set upon us? You will have to tune in to our fourth (and final!) blog post to find out!



Cohn, G.(Producer). (2015, May 05-20). Failure is your friend: A freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25. Retrieved from


Blog Post 2: Project Proposal and Progress

It is finally March! For the average human being, March is characterized by the start of spring, and all that comes with it. Nothing evinces the concept of “new beginnings” better than stepping outside and being invigorated by the salient perfume of early blooms and the sonorous chirps of swallows and chickadees.

But students aren’t average human beings.

For students, March is characterized as being month 7 of the academic year, and as being the proverbial mini-boss battle before the final boss battle (final exams). The tantalizing promise of warm weather is nothing but a tease; an unachievable reward for completing all of your assignments. But the deadlines keep coming, and your recollection of the world outside of lecture halls becomes hazier than ever. And much like in the video games, conquest over the mini-boss leads directly to the boss battle, with no time in between to stop and smell the cherry blossoms.

What do trees look like again, anyways?

So maybe the quintessential student idea of springtime “new beginnings” is upgrading from the daily double espresso to a triple. Being the preamble for finals, though, March is a particularly relevant time for students to engage in one uniquely relevant behavior: reflection.

Sometimes, goals which are too lofty can become overwhelming, which is why it is important to break them down into bite-sized objectives to stay on track with the project work.

Which brings us to today’s blog post.

In writing today’s post, we will look back at our objective and achievements so far, regarding our work within LFS 350 and on our community project. After outlining some of the challenges and barriers we have encountered so far, we hope to use our writing as a catalyst for generating potential solutions to said challenges. We end on thoughts to keep in mind, looking forward when moving towards the end of our project (and our semester).


A Wild Timeline Appears

To get a better sense of where we are at in our project and construct a framework for our way forward, we have brainstormed a timeline for what we hope to achieve in the following weeks. These milestones will serve as nested goals and help keep us on track with our project, tackling bite-sized steps towards accomplishing big things.

WEEKS 1 – 2 (Course Introductions):


  • Familiarize ourselves with the structure of LFS 350 and the core concepts of the course.
  • Get a sense for the available project opportunities and narrow down our interests.
  • Form final project groups and get to know each other.


  • Over the course of weeks 1 and 2, we developed an understanding of our role as students in LFS 350 through the lens of community engaged experiential learning. We also covered key course concepts such as community food security, transdisciplinary science, and asset-based community development, concepts to be conscious of when discussing social change.
  • Presented with a run-down of the available project opportunities and potential community partners, we individually ranked our top 3 interests in a preliminary poll. Then, after being given further time for reflection, final ranking decisions were submitted.
  • Final project groups based on our ranking preferences were announced and the group members were introduced to each other for the first time. We discussed our motivation for choosing the project, our personal strengths, and what we hoped to get out of the project experience.

WEEKS 3 – 4 (First Steps):


  • Contact community partners and arrange a meeting in person.
  • Clarify project details, scope, and role of group in contributing to project.
  • Establish framework for data collection and communication.
  • Reflect on progress so far through Blog Post 1.
  • Draft a project proposal.


  • Following our first meeting as a group, we contacted our community partnersthe North Shore Table Matters Networkin order to get in touch with Jenn Meilleur and Samantha Gambling, our project supervisors. We arranged a meeting in person at Lonsdale Quay during the first Flexible Learning session on January 23rd, 2017.
  • At our meeting with Jenn and Sam, we discussed the background of the North Shore Table Matters Network, the unique food system challenges in the North Shore, and the motivation for the food asset mapping project. We also clarified the details of how our group would contribute to the project, which was to be through building an up-to-date online database of the food assets in the North Shore, under a set of specified categories.
  • After our meeting, Jenn and Sam composed a detailed set of instructions on how data was to be collected, verified, and entered into the online database, including instructions for contacting food asset resources. We decided to keep in touch with Jenn and Sam via weekly email updates.
  • Through writing our previous blog post, we reviewed our experience meeting with our community partners and reflected on the preliminary stages of preparing to jump into our project. Overall, our meeting was very successful and helped us develop a better sense for our role in the food asset mapping project, as well as how we would pursue it.
  • A project proposal detailing our project’s purpose, background, significance, objectives, inquiry questions, and methods was drafted.

WEEKS 5 – 6 (Gearing Up):


  • Review feedback on project proposal and revise/rethink project as necessary.
  • Write and submit finalized project proposal.
  • Begin collecting and verifying data about North Shore food assets as agreed upon through project framework and proposed methods.
  • Reflect on progress up until this blog post.


  • With the help our our TA, we reviewed our project proposal

    Above is a snapshot of one category of food assets in our food asset database.

    draft and identified necessary changes to the project’s objectives and methods in order to clarify our desired outcomes and the approaches we would take to achieve these.

  • In our final project proposal we defined our objectives to be: 1) developing a database of relevant, up-to-date information about food assets in the North Shore, to be used in the creation and maintenance of an online food asset map; and 2) evaluating the effectiveness of the resulting map as a resource for North Shore community members and presenting the results to our community partners. We further clarified our methodological approach to these goals. The final project proposal was submitted and approved.
  • We tested out our methods for data collection and verification, including contacting food asset resources in several of our categories, to get a sense of the effectiveness of the approach and anything we may need to reconsider.
  • In writing this blog post, we have reflected on the progress of our project from Week 1 to Week 6, and noted the challenges we have faced, the lessons we have learned, and how we hope to apply these in the coming weeks.



In the following weeks, our group will have to reflect on some of the challenges we have faced in our project so far and overcome these strategically. In doing so, we can maximize our remaining time in LFS 350 to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in our project proposal. A number of steps remain to be undertaken towards reaching our objectives, and dealing with some of the difficulties we have discussed above. Here is a breakdown of some of our nested goals in the coming weeks of project work.

  • Discuss difficulties in obtaining data after testing out approach.
  • Clarify uncertainties in project categories.
  • Strategize towards more efficient and effective approaches for data collection and add support where needed, and develop an agreed upon set of best practices for collecting and validating information.
  • Present at North Shore Table Matters Network meeting on March 2nd.
  • Work on collecting and validating data through best practices approach.
  • Submit data to be entered into food asset google map by community partners.
  • Test out google map with community partners and gather feedback.
  • Summarize findings and develop infographic.
  • Reflect on project success through group blog postings and final project report.


Now What?

Immersing ourselves in this type of community work, it is easy to forget that this project has been assigned as a school project; and as such, is a learning experience. We utilize the following framework to reflect on some of the significant challenges we have encountered, in hopes of moving forward towards building solutions.


We have come across various difficulties while working on our North Shore Food Asset Community Map. After our first meeting with Sam and Jenn, we realized that the North Shore is larger than what we were expecting it to be! Most of us thought it was limited to North Vancouver and West Vancouver. Through Sam and Jenn, we learned that the North Shore is a geographically large and socially, culturally, and economically distinct region consisting of the District of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, the Municipality of Lions Bay, and the Municipality of Bowen Island. Given the big size of this area that we are focusing on, we understand how limited time we have been given on top of our other priorities as students. As such, we realized that time could be a limiting factor if we were to map every part of it. Since the course started, every week we had something due such as blogs, proposal, quizzes, etc., and feel that we have not had enough time to work on the project as much as we wanted. Considering the amount of time needed to be spent on this project, setting aside time merely for completion of our project has been a big challenge.

In our food asset map, our community partner has provided us with a list to be filled out with information containing 8 categories of “food assets”,  each with a number of subcategories.

Due to North Shore’s large territory and our time restraints, this task may have come off as overwhelming. After submitting our proposal draft and coming into an ease, we started gathering data off the online resources as a group. After trying to set a date that works for every single member of the group to work on the project, we realized that it will be more productive to set deadlines for the completion of the assigned work. Each member in our group has different schedules inside and out of the university, presenting further challenges for coordinating our work in a timely manner. At the beginning there were times that some of the team members could not contribute as much because of their time restrains although they wanted to participate. Trying to overcome this challenge, it was decided afterwards to assign a category to each group member to work on in his or her available time. Due to this fact, our final product may not be as coherent as we wanted since each member may not have the time to look at and coordinate findings between the categories they have completed with those of others.  

So What??

Although we may perform well individually, the past fews weeks has made us realize that in order to achieve the objectives we have proposed, we need to start tackling problems collectively. Our lack of cohesiveness may have deleterious implications for our finished product. A more team-based effort (as opposed to a “divide and conquer” effort) will allow us to capitalize on each others feedback, and be more perceptive to each other’s ideas and beliefs. This may translate into a more cohesive food asset map, improving the usefulness of the tool.

Now What ??

In order to overcome the difficulties presented to our group, we have decided that each member should pair up with another team member. Implementing this new strategy proposes solutions to our lack of cohesiveness. First, this allows for opinions and feedback between the pair, eliminating individuality and adding productive conflict when working on a category. Even though it might take longer for each pair to

Working in pairs will provide opportunities for constructive criticism and creative conflict, which will hopefully lead to better project outcomes and greater effort in data collection.

complete the assigned task compared to working individually,  the added conflict and frustration could help inspire creativity and increase productivity as mentioned by Tim Harford in his podcast “How frustration can make us more creative” (Harford, 2016). Second, this allows everyone to flexibly work around each of our schedules while also reaping the benefits in forming a group. Also realizing time as an asset to our project, we aim to work more efficiently in meetings and get parts done as much as we possibly can in every meeting due to time conflicts among group members and the limited amount of time given to us. That being said, it is difficult to list the challenges that we might come across for the following weeks. Despite these challenges, we aim to not let these obstacles hinder our group’s progress and alternatively make it a stepping stone, an opportunity for us to grow and learn from these “messy” experiences in order to succeed in our future goals (Freakonomics, 2015).



Concluding Thoughts

In developing the resources required for the food asset map, it is important for us to ask: whom will this project reach? From a food justice lens, what this question is really asking is: how can this food map help bridge the gaps in equity existent within North Shore communities? An equally exciting question is: will the map reveal unforeseen demographic inequities? Follow up research on questions from the last blog has presented us with data on the unexpectedly high rates of poverty and food insecurity in the North Shore, a burden disproportionately borne by lone-parent families, recent immigrants, and seniors (SPARC BC, 2006).

The North Shore is known as one of the wealthiest areas of the Lower Mainland, however not everyone who lives here is a millionaire. Many families are severely affected by the high cost of housing, especially in terms of their other spending on living costs such as food.

Our process of data collection must be mindful of this.


In lectures, we explored the trend towards how local food movements in Metro Vancouver seem to have underrepresented the large Chinese-Canadian agricultural community, running contrary to food justice’s ideation of equity (Gibb and Wittman, 2013). Furthermore, we explored challenges to food security that arise from the North Shore’s housing cost, which is much higher than the provincial average (Miewald and Ostry, 2014). Housing is a fixed cost every month, and with average rents and mortgage payments of over $1000 per month in the Districts of North and West Vancouver, many North Shore residents do not have enough money to cover other food costs since they spend a large proportion of their income on housing (SPARC BC, 2006).

Populations characterized by compromised housing may even be absent from demographic statistics. Going forward, we must be mindful of these inequities when attempting to collect information, as to not accidentally further perpetuate these injustices. Our lingering curiosities lead us to be mindful of ways in which this project could potentially reach seniors (notoriously tech-unsavvy) and those of compromised housing (who may not have access to internet).
That all but sums up our progress for now. Catch you in the next part of our blog series!



Cohn, G.(Producer). (2015, May 05-20). Failure is your friend: A freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Gibb, N., & Wittman, H. (2013). Parallel alternatives: Chinese-canadian farmers and the metro vancouver local food movement. Local Environment, 18(1), 1.

Harford, T.(2016). Tim Harford: how messy problems can inspire creativity. Retrieved from

Miewald, C., & Ostry, A. (2014). A Warm Meal and a Bed: Intersections of Housing and Food Security in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Housing Studies, 29(6), 709–729.

Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia. (2006). Food security for all: North Shore food system assessment and community food action plan. Retrieved from:


Blog Post 1: Introductions and First Impressions

“Why are we here?” asked Dr. Will Valley on the first day of lecture in LFS 350, the second course in the Land, Food, and Community class series.

A classroom full of students looked nervously from side to side. None of us could come up with an answer we believed in; and frankly, none of us really knew what this course would be about.

Now, three weeks into the semester, that pervading sense of uncertainty lingers. We still don’t know what Land and Food Systems 350 course is about, but we are starting to get a sense for it. It appears that our collective understanding of community food systems—developed through the concept-laden prerequisite Land and Food Systems 250—is going to be put into real world context, in hopes of advancing local food system programs.

And we could not be engaging in Metro Vancouver’s boisterous food system at a more appropriate time. Vancouver’s combination of not-quite-subtropical climate and not-quite-Californian progressive attitude lay the foundations of a social culture characterized by a transformative and experimental food systemand there is a new kid on the block in the world of community food system development.

Vancouver Coastal Health has been a pioneer in the field of food-asset mapping.

Enter: the “food asset map”. Basically, the intention behind developing this tool is to create a resource with a user-friendly interface (Google Maps) that highlights the agri-food assets existent in the mapped areas. The definition of “food asset” broadly encapsulates “places where people can grow, prepare, share, buy, receive or learn about food” (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2014).The truth is, we don’t really know if food asset maps are useful at this point in time, playing on the motif of uncertainty that is tacit within community work, but we look forward to learning from this very hands-on, engaging experience and informing future asset-based community work!

Table Matters is a community-based organization situated on the North Shore (this includes: the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, the City of West Vancouver, and Bowen Island) with a commitment towards improving community food security. We will be working closely with them over the next few months to find and develop the food assets that will eventually end up on a community food map. Our approach towards this project, still in its initial stages, may set the precedent for years to come.

Our team was brought together through our collective interest in the North Shore food system, a love for mapping, and a desire to understand food assets and bring light to these in the community. Each of us brings unique talents and knowledge to the table, an advantage for tackling this project together. Our objective is to bring an accurately drawn North Shore food asset map to life, in hopes that it will be a useful resource for community members and community partners alike.

First Impressions

On a fiercely sunny January 23 afternoon, the group met with the community partners from Table Matters for the first time. The North Shore welcomed us with silhouette vistas of the downtown core and the calm of a sun-spangled Vancouver Harbour. We met with Jenn, from Table Matters, and Sam, an LFS graduate and former LFS 350 TA, and were introduced to the foundations of our project. Although Table Matters may tend to contrast Vancouver Coastal Health in its vociferous dedication to sustainable food systems, their approach to food asset mapping is deliberately paralleled to Vancouver Coastal Health. Jenn reasonably pitched the merits of accessibility of information in having consistency between municipalities in Metro Vancouver.

There is an ostensible advantage towards approaching a community project with only a menial understanding of what to expect, if we choose to acknowledge it. Starting with a blank slate puts us in a position that requires us to engage in one powerful (and altogether underrepresented) behavior: listening. Ernesto Sirolli warns about the dangers of “experts” entering a community with a plan that neglects the voices of the community itself. This approach is prone to failure, and may have a deleterious impact on the community (TED, 2012). Our plan, then, has been formulated largely around the instruction provided by our community partner, whom is more qualified to respond to the specific needs of the community through experience and engagement.

Why do community development experts fail when they impose their generalizable models on specific communities? Part of this can be explained by Mathie and Cunningham, (2003), who emphasize the importance of an “asset-based” approach over a “needs-based” one. A needs-based approach focuses on what a community lacks, often with the unencumbered side-effect of degrading community morale. Working within the framework assigned to us by the community promotes a sense of agency. This “asset-based” approach is contributing to an increasingly sonorous understanding of why development projects have an alarmingly high failure rate.

Fair Food Market represents a particular type of food-asset offering subsidized grocery items to Lonsdale community members.

Much of Jenn’s excitement in this assignment echoed her desire to procure data on previously undocumented food assets in North Vancouver. Acknowledging North Shore’s geographical limitations to food production and its smaller emphasis on community food systems (relative to Vancouver), Jenn remained optimistic about the existing food assets and community engagements (some of which have surely yet to be discovered!). We believe this reflects Jenn’s commitment to Asset-Based Community Development (Mathie and Cunningham, 2003)

There is one more concept we wish to explore more throughout this project (last one, we promise), an ideology called “food justice”. As it may, food justice is sort of like the lovechild between “food security” and “social justice”. Dixon (2014) states that sometimes, a “master narrative” can detract from the realities of those less fortunate. With much of our group from North Shore, we acknowledge that beneath North Shore’s perception of affluence, there lies potential for food insecure households. For example, the city of North Vancouver has more single parents than mainland Vancouver, an indicator of food insecurity in Canada (CNV, 2016). Succumbing to the notion that all of North Shore is rich would effectively silence those most vulnerable.

Charros Garden is a wonderful example of communities taking charge of their own food production towards greater food security and food sovereignty.

After Jenn had left us, we visited some of the known food assets that were within walking distance from our meeting spot in Lower Lonsdale. Within blocks, we were exposed to a mixed bag of different food assets: from a convenience store that sells onions to a startup that sells luxury balcony micro-gardens. We also visited a community garden, although it appeared to be in a state of dormancy given the winter months. Our excursion raised a number of questions that we hope to address by the end of term: what food assets will be overlooked due to seasonality? Does a food asset have to provide nutritious food? How does one go about identifying food assets that have not yet been documented?

Maybe our team of superheroes can help find the answers!

Iva Jankovic
is a 3rd year Global Resource Systems major studying Urban Planning and Urban Food Security. She is an avid adventurer who loves hiking, biking, backpacking, and exploring the city through the lens of a camera or with a sketchbook in hand. Despite this, Iva is also a homebody, who loves gardening, cooking, and reading. She is excited to take on this project to hone her mapping skills and better understand food and culture in the North Shore!



Maleknaz Abrishami, Naz for short is a third year FNH student. Naz loves spending time out in the nature with her dog and traveling to new places. She is currently working as a pharmacy assistant at Coal Harbour Pharmacy. Naz believes that this project is a good opportunity for her to get to know the community she lives in better also spot the whereabouts of different community food assets on the North Shore area.






Parisa Roofigari is a 2nd year FNH student who loves travelling and music or any type of art that gets her connected with her soul! She is interested in human behaviours and its impacts on the environment and nature. Parisa hopes that this project will teach her how to apply the knowledge she gained from LFS 250; teamwork, systems thinking, sustainability, etc. in real life and, also, as a person who lives in North Shore community, have a broader understanding about the food assets existing in my neighbourhood.



Miko David is a 3rd year student majoring in Nutritional Sciences. Aside from studying for his courses, he spends most of his time working out and playing his electric guitar. His goal in life is to attain self-perfection, continuing to better himself in every aspect slowly in the process. Despite living in the North Shore for a few years, Miko feels that he hasn’t really been exposed to its community and would like to use this project as a good opportunity for him to get connected to the North Shore community as well as build a proper understanding about the food assets in the area he lives in.


Amirparsa Ebrahimi (Parsa for short) is a 3rd year student in FNH major. Alongside being a student he is competitive soccer player for Paykan FC in Burnaby Men League, and therefore he spends most of his time apart from University practicing and playing games for his team. Amirparsa is looking forward to learning about sustainability around his neighbourhood as he lives in North Vancouver as is part of the community that his group are basing their project around. It will be a great information for him personally to know all the food assets active around his home area.



Abdo Souraya is a transfer student in his second year at UBC. He is a prospective Global Resource Systems student, interested in integrating the applications of nutrition with the socioeconomics of the food system. Abdo hopes to use this integration to influence food policy, advocating for food justice and environmentally sustainable modes of production. Food mapping with Table Matters amalgamates Abdo’s desire to influence community food systems with his affinity for exploring unfamiliar territories.