Project Introduction and Objectives
From 2010 to 2012, one eighth of the world’s population was undernourished. That is 870 million people going hungry and not receiving enough nutrients for a healthy balanced diet (Sachs & Patel-Campillo, 2014). As one can see from this overwhelming statistic, food insecurity is a prevailing problem that continues to plague our society. As a team, we want to make a small, yet meaningful impact on improving food security in a local community.
The Richmond Food Bank is a facility that provides food to low income families within the municipality of Richmond. Currently, this food bank is providing its users with plenty of non-perishable food items due to numerous donations from the community. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of perishable food donations such that they are unable to provide food bank users with fresh food every week. The aim of our LFS 350 community-based project focuses on how to increase the amount of perishable food items available at this food bank so families suffering from food insecurity will have sufficient amounts of healthy food to meet their dietary needs. To achieve this, we will work together to provide potential donors with statistics regarding food wastage in the city, with which to encourage fresh food donors to join the Food Bank activity in terms of donating more perishable foods. Hopefully, we will reach the food threshold.
Also, in the process, we hope to understand constraints that exist in our society that can explain unequally distributed healthy food products to low-income families and minorities and for us to further conceptualize food justice in a local community.
Meet the Team! Our Interests and Insights
Amy Bao Xian Zeng
I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in Food and Environment. I am intrigued by the food system that operates within my city, as well as around the world, and am excited to learn about the problems that each country faces in regards to food security, food sovereignty, and food justice. Currently, as one of the courses I am taking, LFS 350 has introduced the three topics that I was interested in, and I am excited to be working in a group with five of my classmates on this project in association with the Richmond Food Bank. Our mission is to develop a booklet to disperse to the general public, as well as grocery stores, to raise public awareness which will eventually boost the donation in perishable food items. The reason why we want to help raise public concern about how perishable food such as fresh vegetables and fruits are important to the families in need is due to the high nutritional value they bare.
I am a fourth year student specializing in Food, Nutrition and Health. Throughout my three and a half years in the FNH program, what I found most interesting in terms of land and food systems is the idea that we need to go backwards in terms of farming techniques such that organic farming is more sustainable and provides numerous benefits, not only to local communities but also on a larger scale, than modern day agricultural practices. Also, I think it’s essential that we educate people on the aspect of food citizenship, not only to keep small scale organic farmers afloat but also to battle food insecurity which plagues many Canadians across our nation. For these reasons, I decided that working with the Richmond Food Bank Society was a good choice for me as our goal as a team is to find a strategy to increase the amount of perishable food donations received, perhaps from local farms along with grocery stores, so that we can adequately nourish those in the community who are food insecure. I’m excited to finally take what we’ve learned in class and apply it to a real-world situation in hopes to make a difference in our community.
I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in Nutritional Science. After my past volunteer experience at Carnegie Community Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, I realized that even though Canada is a country with abundant food resources, there are still thousands of people that are currently enduring food insecurity. Majority of them are unsure where their next meal is coming from. They rely on food from the food bank to survive. However, most food they get from the food bank are non-perishable which are high in calories and low in micronutrients. Therefore, those people who live below the poverty line have higher risk to suffer from malnutrition related diseases. From the knowledge I gained from prior courses, some of those diseases can be prevented simply through increasing one’s daily fresh fruit and vegetable intake. That is the reason why I choose this Perishable Food Recovery Program as my project. During this term, our group will collect data about the demand of perishable food in Richmond food bank, find ways to increase perishable food donation from Richmond grocery stores and design a “Food Recovery Guide” specific for the Richmond Food Bank. I believe at the end of this project, I will have a deeper understanding about dealing with food security issues and will try my best to let everyone in the community have access to nutritious food.
I am a third year undergraduate student within the LFS faculty. The issue of food insecurity, of which I learned a great deal from my previous FNH and FRE courses, attracted me to projects associated with food banks. The Perishable Food Recovery program caught my eye as a need-to-be-solved issue in my opinion. It improves food choices given by the food bank while reducing food waste at the same time. Food insecurity is not solved if only ones’ calorie amount is achieved; there are many other factors that need to be addressed. As mentioned at our first meeting at the Richmond Food Bank Society, there is a significant role that perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs play in terms of providing nutrients that our bodies need in order to function properly. However, the shortage of perishable food is year long and variety and quantity of such foods are fully dependent on the season (mainly vegetables) and providers. It is our job to do research on local food market, then find and convince the potential donors to join the movement of helping to solve local food insecurity. My point of view, as someone who is specializing in Food Market Analysis, is that it is important to gain insight on current and possible future local food markets followed by finding a sustainable way to solve perishable food supply shortage.
I am a third year student in the Food, Nutrition, and Health major. The reason why I chose my specific major is because I enjoy eating healthily and I try to encourage others to do the same. By doing so, we can all live longer and better lives. However, it is important that healthy food is affordable, safe for consumption, easily accessible, and, of course, tastes good. I chose this project because I believe by increasing the amount of perishable food at the Richmond Food Bank, more people in the community will be given the chance to eat better and to live better. I hope to be able to make at least a small difference in lives of others in my community. By the end of this course, I hope to gain a better understanding of food insecurity and food injustice in the Metro Vancouver area and to be able to apply these new skills in future careers.
I am a third-year undergraduate student in the Land and Food Systems Faculty. Currently I am enrolled in Food Science and Nutrition simply because I love labs and analysis! Although I find food science amazing in terms of scientific backgrounds and wide applications, one important aspect that is missing is the direct connection and involvement with the community. During LFS 250, I learned about food security and food sovereignty. As we come to a higher level of thinking, we conceive the idea of food justice. Food justice is complicated involving fields like ethics, policy, and even races. I chose this project since Richmond Food Bank provided free foods donated from grocery stores to low-income families, which practically fulfilled the idea of food justice in community. By the end of the course, I am hoping to have a deeper understanding of the role of food justice acting in society and to gain experience while helping Richmond Food Bank in terms of increasing perishable food sources.
During our first meeting at the Richmond Food Bank with our community partners, we were explained the current situation regarding the amount of perishable food items that are distributed compared to quantities of other food banks in British Columbia. Perishable food items include fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy and eggs. The Richmond Food Bank is focusing only on fresh, frozen, packaged and uncooked perishable. Currently, the food the Richmond Food Bank purchases fresh produce every week and also receives donated produce from a local grocery wholesaler. Food Bank users receive about 70 percent non-perishable and 30 percent perishable food. In contrast, there are food banks within the province that distribute 70 percent perishable food items and 30 percent non-perishable items. Also, we found that there have been times when the Food Bank users received very little produce due to a higher client volume or lack of perishable food donations. The Richmond Food Bank is looking for more consistency in terms of fresh produce donations so that their numbers are comparable to other food banks within the province. Even though the Richmond Food Bank is receiving donations from grocery stores every week, the amount they receive is dependent on who is working at these locations as some people will have more sympathy or interest when it comes to contributing to the food bank than others. Therefore, instead of donating to the food bank, many people will simply throw the food items into the trash.
This is where non-perishable foods get distributed to recipients.
Our community partners suggested that we do a survey of different grocery stores in order to collect data in terms of food waste in the city. With our findings, we will put together an infographic that will depict the food waste within Richmond and recommendations for improved perishable food recovery efforts. Our team will also draft a Donor Booklet that the Richmond Food Bank will then hand out to prospective donors in hopes to educate them on the current food waste issue. Hopefully, this will in turn encourage them to provide the food bank with more perishable donations. This is an example of asset-based community development as we are focusing on a community’s assets or strengths, rather than its weaknesses, and using them for the betterment of the community. The present asset in our case is excess fresh food items and we are determining a way to better distribute them to reduce food insecurity in Richmond.
After our meeting with our community partners, we were given a tour around the food bank. We were shown the designated areas for different food items and how they store some of their donated products, some of which require special storage facilities (such as a walk-in fridge for perishable food items). We were also informed about the process that a food bank user would typically experience during each visit. Essentially, each food bank user is registered with their ID and proof of address and then depending on family size and composition, the individual will receive a certain number of tickets per food category to determine the amount of food they will receive from each category. In this way, the food bank ensures that each family is receiving an adequate amount of items from each food category. The idea that the food bank decides how much of which food category each family receives reminds us of Ernesto Sirolli’s TED talk video. In this video, he shares his story about going to Zambia and farming on lands they knew nothing about and without discussion with the locals. Perhaps instead of the food bank deciding how much of what food group people should receive, the food bank users should decide or at least give their input. As a result, food recipients will have items that are better suited to their personal needs.
At the end of the tour, we promised to contact each other on a weekly basis and to update our community partners on our progress. We are all very excited, yet anxious, as we prepare to immerse ourselves in the community and to start this journey towards achieving our goals.
The food bank receives large amounts of non-perishable food donations, but only a comparably small sum of perishable donations.
By working with the Richmond Food Bank Society, the six of us hope to improve the livelihoods of low-income families in Richmond by increasing perishable food quantities available to them. By using the concept of Asset-Based Community Development, we will potentially be able to improve food security and food justice within Richmond. Food security will be improved as sufficient and healthy food will be made more available for members of the community. As for food justice, food equity, regardless of details such as race or social class, will become more achievable.
Another important reason for us to carry out this project is to improve the bond Richmond Food Bank shares with its community members. We would be providing the public a better understanding of what the food bank stands for – providing healthy and nutritious food to the families in need so to help improve community development in Richmond (Allen, 2008).
Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25(2), 157–161.
Sachs, C., & Patel-Campillo, A. (2014). Feminist food justice: Crafting a new vision. Feminist Studies, 40(2), 396-410.