“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
|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|
(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.
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”