Blog 4 Farewell

So now it’s the end of November and we have worked together for almost three months.  The whole experience has been significant to us in many ways so we are sharing both from the perspective of teamwork and learning about ourselves (Overall group experience) as well as the ups and downs of the course/project itself (Overall project experience )


Overall Group Experience

“ We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do.” Martha Grimes

WHAT were the challenges?

Time flies and this semester is almost at an end.  As a group and as individuals, we encountered many new experiences and challenges.  


On that first day, as we looked forward to meeting our group members, everyone felt uncertain.  We had very little time then to learn much about each other before we had to assign roles and move forward with tasks.

Workload and Stress:

This course entailed a heavy workload.  At some points, especially during midterms, most of us felt stress as we studied for and sat exams, while trying to keep our project on schedule.

Skills and Strengths:

We each came to the group with  beliefs about our own skills and our own shortcomings; our past group experiences; and our expectations for each other and for the team.  We all wanted to participate in creating the best experience possible but it wasn’t clear at first how that would look, if our skills would be important or valued, if others had the knowledge and experience in areas we lacked and if we could fit it all together to be a cohesive team where everyone’s contribution was respected and appreciated.


There was uncertainty and doubt about when to speak out or step up and when to hold back or allow others to shine.  Some of us were naturally more talkative and inclined to take the lead while  others were quieter, weighing up the right time to contribute or volunteer for a task.


SO WHAT?  How did we overcome the challenges?

After our first tutorial, we began to feel comfortable within the group and keen to step into this exciting project and by the end of the semester, we agreed that we had a great time working together.

Uncertainty: Encouraging each other

Being forced out of our comfort zones had unexpected benefits.  It made us work harder,  think of different ways to approach tasks and challenge ourselves.  We didn’t know enough about each other to assume anything or simply let someone else do it.  After all, nothing might get done.  So, we reached out with the knowledge and experience we had and encouraged others.  When phoning community partners was a daunting task for some, other group members teamed up to help or share the task.  When interviewees were not available at the times we had expected, we stepped in for someone else, we changed our schedules, we went in pairs.  Every time someone was uncertain, confused or stuck, someone would always reach out to try to help that person out.  When the whole team faced uncertainty, as we did with the infographic, or an unexpected outcome, as we did with the feedback interviews,  everyone shared in the responsibility, the humour and ultimately, the learning that ensued.

Workload and Stress: Divide and Conquer

By the time midterms were upon us, we had developed a rapport and were able to more easily take on and complete tasks.  We survived blogs 2 and 3 and drafting the project proposal  by using strategies such as assigning each part of the whole task to one individual and  brainstorming the outline for each part  in all upcoming tasks every time we met in person.  That way, we divided the work so it was more manageable and we left the meeting with a clear idea of how our part would fit within the whole.  We made certain that every person played a role in every task, whether it was writing, designing, interviewing, emailing, filling our excel spreadsheets.  That way, all of our ideas were considered and everyone benefitted from the group’s co-operation.

Skills and Strengths: Learning to step up and learning when to let go

It turned our that our team was composed of people proficient in writing, communicating, designing, keeping the project on task, note taking, technology  or adapting to any role that was needed.   Everyone attended every meeting and own our comfort levels in certain skills became clear.  At first, we didn’t necessarily volunteer for what we thought we could do but gradually, we became more confident and offered to take on certain roles.  At the same time, we became comfortable about letting go of control and trusting in each other to complete each part of the task.  It became clear to all of us that everyone’s contribution was valuable and essential for the best outcome.

Communication:  Styles are different

From the beginning, we all understood the importance of communication in a group project but throughout the weeks, we had to discuss and clarify more issues small and large  than we could have imagined.  Facebook messenger was a lifeline to get messages back and forth, links to documents, ideas, pictures, ask and answer questions.  In person communication was extremely important too and every chance we got, we sat down as a group and went through what was done and what was upcoming.  Even with many text messages and emails, some things are better discussed in person and those sessions helped us to solidify our approach and make sure we all understood each other that  we were all on the same page.  We saw the importance  of as much communication as possible in different ways to ensure everyone’s needs were met.



Three months have passed and we are finally coming to the end of term and it’s time for us to show what our group achieved to the public and write up our final report.  As we present our infographic next week, we will be showing the Richmond Food Asset Map but also the collaboration and teamwork that was involved.  LFS 350 threw us in at the deep end with a heavy workload and many, diverse tasks but the confidence that we have gained in our own skills and strengths and well as our ability to work effectively within a team will serve us well in the future wherever our careers ake us.  Although the term ends soon, what we’ve gained throughout the whole course will be with us for a long time, even forever.


Overall project experience

“In any project, the  most important factor is the belief in success” William James

WHAT were the challenges?


At the beginning phase of joining VCH on Richmond Food Asset Map (RFAM), all of us including the assigned community partners, were new to this project. We were the first group of UBC students  launching this project into Richmond whereas, in Vancouver, the process had started several years ago. During the first meeting, the atmosphere was a little tense.  No one was sure what we were expected to accomplish, exactly what our goal was and how to set up the map where there was none. At this phase until the next phase, we just moved one step at the time since the future project was still a blur to us.

Deadlines and Stress:

The most challenging part during the process was getting the email replies and the setting the interview with other community partners before the deadline caught up with us. During phase one, we had to contact all existing food assets within our categories in the Richmond community. Emailing was not difficult since we had a template to follow; however, the waiting period for the replies with the knowledge that the deadline was approaching was stressful. Issues arose that we hadn’t anticipated.  The email template was lengthy and wordy and not sufficiently clear for representatives of the food assets to understand that we needed current information and their permission to appear on the map.  Our time was tight and we had to balance politeness and patience with further attempts at contacting people with further emails or phone calls.

Communication and Scheduling:

More obstacles came up at phase two, when we had to set up times for the interviews with selected community partners. The interview phase allowed us three weeks period including emailing and interviewing. Some of the community partners only replied to their emails during office hours  and some worked part-time.  Their limited availability often conflicted with our class times.


SO WHAT?  How did we overcome the challenges?

Uncertainty: Don’t expect to (ever) know all the answers.

We began to learn to accept uncertainty and live  with it.  Instead of leaving individual group members work out their own assigned tasks, we often brainstormed ideas as a group to minimize any confusion. Moreover, as the project moved forward, we learned how to effectively communicate with our community partners  when our group encountered issues that required their clarification.  We realized that they were new to this process too and bumps in the road would arise for us all.  We made plans but when things took an unexpected turn, we learned that we could adapt our own strategy or at the very least, gain some knowledge and experience that could be passed on to the next group.  For example, contacting community members to get information, approval or set up meetings almost always took much longer than we had anticipated so allowing enough time for this part is important.  We had to learn and accept that some organizations did not want to take part in the project nor appear on the map and not everyone embraced the project as we did.

Deadlines and Stress:  Encourage, adapt and think out of the box

As deadlines approached, we encouraged and helped each other but sometimes, we simply couldn’t deliver on time.  We could not complete the interviews in the two weeks we had anticipated and we requested an extra few days from VCH to deliver a comprehensive feedback summary.  They were willing to allow us the extra time and our report was completed.

We also learned to step up and provide our community partners with alternative solutions that we thought of to solve the problems that both our group and our community partners have never encountered before. For instance, in the second phase of our project, our community partners expected us to conduct in-person or phone interviews with other organization directors for feedback on the RFAM. However, due to time constraint and conflicts with our school schedules and despite repeated attempts, we had trouble  setting up meetings with some directors.  Rather than giving up getting feedback from those organizations, we suggested to our community partners obtaining feedback by phone or by email and ultimately, we received one very detailed response to our feedback questions via email.  We had to adapt to circumstances but were tenacious and did not give up.

Communication and Scheduling:  Sometimes it’s  worth the trouble

Although we were facing all these challenges when we were working on the project, our group did an amazing job in communicating and expressing our feelings about the project with each other.  Although arranging the interviews was troublesome with difficulties in communications and scheduling we managed meet with most organizations and conduct a quality interview with them. Because of the face to face meeting, we obtained a lot of valuable comments about the map and insights about the community.  We were pleasantly surprised about the depth of knowledge, the enthusiasm for the Richmond Food Asset Map and the thoughtful feedback we received.  Having been initially  disappointed that we could not give out surveys to a larger number of people, we saw the value in qualitative feedback that we received.



We will be holding a booth in UBC next week to deliver our presentation to the people passing by, with our infographic exhibited. There will be one or two people in the group talk, but all of the group members will be there to attract people, answer questions and show support to the speakers. After the presentation, there will be only one assignment left for us to do as a group in LFS 350, which is the final project report. With the experience of collaborating for 3 months, we believe we can wrap this up in style.

We accomplished a lot by starting this project in Richmond and getting the community members engaged and excited about the idea of a food asset map for their community.  The people that we interviewed represented many organizations with diverse groups of clients and we are now aware of how much knowledge is out there, far from academia.  Richmond has many resources and assets and a variety of rich cultural  backgrounds.  Moving forward, we must ensure that all segments of the community are invited to be heard.  There are many layers in the community and in our short time there, we only felt we touched the surface. Knowledge, food and social networks and experience reside with the members of the community itself and our advice to the next team here  would be to talk to people as soon as they can to learn from them how to help the community with issues such as food security.  As a team, we have learned skills that will help us in the real  world from the VCH dietitians, community members of Richmond and from each other.  Moving on is bittersweet but we are confident that we will leave the project in good hands.

“Overall, our team spirit has provided us incredible strength and motivation in completing this project”  (quote from a member of our group)



James, W. (1956). The will to believe: and other essays in popular philosophy. New York: Dover Publications.

Martha Grimes > Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2017, from

Blog 3 Strategies for a Graceful Dismount

“I never fall off, I just dismount with style!”

What have we achieved so far?

Finally, we were able to gather the information about our food assets.  Everyone had anticipated this moment and we were excited to get started.  We divided up the list of known resources among us and, for the past two weeks, we each contacted several organizations by email and/ or phone to ensure all information was current and to obtain their permission to be part of the food asset map. Our research also resulted in discovering assets not currently listed.  All the pertinent information was collated and organized onto excel spreadsheets that were provided by our VCH partners.  Updates to information were highlighted in red and every email, phone call  and request for permission was logged.  By the evening of November 1st, the compilation of our assigned food assets was completed and submitted to our community partner, on time.

Some of our group members went to volunteer with Richmond Food Bank on Sunday of Week 8 to build a  ”can-struction”.   We used hundreds of cans to build a giant peanut butter jar and had lots of fun!   The goal of this exhibition is to raise public awareness of food bank and fill up the food bank shelves using all the cans donated by sponsors, schools and community members. . We look forward to more opportunities to participate in community events.

Week 9 ended with our mid point check in which was a teleconference held with Rani and Anne on Friday November 3rd. The Richmond Food Asset map was live, based on the information we gathered, and it looked awesome! We are eager to start Phase 2 in the coming weeks. VCH has already approved  a list of organizations that we will visit and conduct a presentation on how to use the map and obtain feedback. After the teleconference, we were all clear about our next steps.

So far, we can check off…

  • Proposal done
  • Gathering, updating and collating  free/low-cost meal/grocery information, done
  • 3 meetings attended with our community partners (two telephone conference + one meeting in person), done
  • Our first  opportunity to volunteer in our community, done
  • 3 blogs to share our journey, done.


Our Weekly Objectives


Phase 1
10/9 -15 (week 6) The proposal will be checked with the Instructor and community partners. Proposal will be edited to reflected to feedback and resubmitted.
10/16-29 (week 7 & 8) activite All organizations from a current list provided by VCH as well as additional organizations in Richmond that provide similar services will be contacted by email and/or telephone.
All organizations will be asked for permission to have their contact information publically available online.
10/30- 11/5 (week 9) All of the pertinent information will be put into an Excel spreadsheet by November 1st and submitted to our community partner for the compilation of the Richmond Food Asset Map.
There will be a mid-point check in with VCH through teleconference on November  3rd
Phase 2
11/6- 11/19

(week 10 & 11)

Interviews will take place with individuals from specific organizations (list provided by VCH) where group members will provide instruction on the use of the asset map.
After instruction and  a trial of the asset  map, interviewees will be asked a series of predetermined questions to provide their feedback on the usefulness of the map.  Answers will be recorded on evaluation forms.
11/20- 26 (week 12) All of the interview information, data collected  and evaluation forms will be gathered and submitted to our the community partner.
11/27 – 12/3 (week 13) The infographic presentation will be held in the open space on campus on Nov 29th
The final report of the community project will be submitted via Canvas on December 3rd.  A copy of the report will also be proved to VCH by this date.


Moments of Significant Change


New knowledge and skills


Getting to know our community:


In the first seven weeks of our project, we started to get to know about our community on paper.  Discussions with the VCH dietitians about the Richmond area and our own research on demographics and current food assets helped us form our ideas on what might be important in this multicultural community.  In the last two weeks, we have gained a new perspective by communicating directly through emails and in phone calls with community members representing various organizations.   When we shared our vision, we discovered how those on the front line, those who were serving free meals and distributing groceries, would react to our invitation for inclusion on the food asset map.  We learned that each organization had different goals, target audiences and capabilities.  Some greeted our proposal enthusiastically, but, others, after some consideration, declined  our offer.  It became clear to us that we were mapping out free or subsidized food assets, most of the work was done by volunteers.  Promoting their services on line caused concerns about whether they could meet the needs of additional people.  This was a valuable insight for us.  Current information, conveniently catalogued and available in the click of a mouse, was not without risk and some community organizations were uncertain that the asset map provided a net benefit.


Connecting our knowledge to to our community:


Our learning about the many inequalities in the food system has often touched upon the issue of food insecurity.  Although Richmond appears fairly affluent at first glance, there are some in the community for whom access to adequate, affordable and culturally appropriate food is challenging.  We discovered that, due to financial constraints, the free community meal programmes  are well attended  and some are even at full capacity  The Richmond Food Bank feeds over 2200 people each week, 32% of whom are children.  Our volunteer experience with the Food Bank, which involved raising awareness about the need for donations, also helped us make the connection between “food justice” and “food insecurity” in theory and the very real need for secure access to appropriate food for those in the local community.  We realize that “food insecurity” is not just a phrase appearing in the news, but a serious issue that impacts a huge number of people worldwide. As  university students in a developed country, we may have felt that food justice issues or food insecurity did not apply to us but our classroom learning, reading and project are helping us to see that we are all connected to those issues and realize how intractable some of the problems are.


Moments of emotional significance:


At the outset, as a group we felt uncertain, with lots of mixed feelings as to how our project might unfold. Some of us were nervous and others were excited to start our collective project. After meeting with our community partners in week 3, everyone gained more confidence and our emotions finally passed the neutral line!


As the next couple of weeks passed, our emotions plummeted as tasks such as blogs and the project proposal were assigned to us. In this stage, we faced several obstacles. Everyone had different writing styles and different strengths, we had to consider input from various sources and we were still figuring out the most efficient and best way to work together as a group. The pressures came not only from the project as those  weeks were also midterm weeks for all of our group members. Fortunately, all our hard work was rewarded with positive feedback so you can see that there is a sudden upward surge in week 5.


We were happy to know that both our TA and the community partners approved our proposal. This allowed us to move to the active phase of the project, where we could apply our theoretical plan, the proposal, to the real life situation. To our surprise, not all the organizations chose to be incorporated into our project. We were suddenly forced to face several rejections and our enthusiasm cooled  a bit from the excitement of the proposal feedback. It was significant for us to reassess what we were doing and its value to those in the community.  We had imagined that every organization would be to be represented on the map, without considering that some volunteer organizations are only just able to meet the needs of their current clients.  Unlike business such as grocery stores, increased visibility may be a challenge for those offering free food.  We understood and respected this position and it enhanced our understanding of the differences among food assets in a community,.  So, after adjusting to this emotional law, we are moving upwards again, excited to begin phase two.


Strategies for Successful Project Completion


Although we have only made it through phase 1 of the project, this phase would not have been successful without group encouragement and communication skills.

1.Team Encouragement

Phase 1 of the project involved a lot of first time experiences.  For example, we met our community project partners for the first time in week 3; we wrote a group blog post for the first time;  and we had a teleconference with professionals outside of school for the first time. As a group, we all found that doing things for the first time always caused us fear and anxiety because of all the uncertainties and unknowns. However, instead of avoiding all these challenges, we provided positive emotional support to each other and encouraged each other to be adventurous.


Our effective communication skills within the team, with community partners and with the food assets have helped us in problem solving and conflicts resolution. When talking to our community partners and the majority of the food assets, although they are easy to approach, they are often busy with their day jobs, so prefer our conversations to be concise. Effective communication skills are not only essential for connecting with our community partners and food assets, but also important in group discussion. When we do any group assignment, we always brainstorm ideas, listen to everyone’s opinion and give each other feedback for improvements. These discussion helps us hear diverse ideas within the team which enhances our creativity and innovation.


In phase 2, as we go in pairs to present the new Richmond Food Asset Map and interview interested parties, we will continue to build on the skills we have earned.  Working as a team, we will continue to encourage each other, communicating with respect and always listening and learning from each other and from those in our community.


“The past is where you learned the lesson.  The future is where you apply the lesson.  Don’t give up in the middle”