COVID 19 Emergency Food Distribution Program Update

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As Vancouver went into shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID 19, the Grandview Woodland Food Connection in partnership with Britannia Community Centre immediately established a home food delivery program for those individuals and families in isolation and experiencing financial hardship. At the time, we were one of just a few such services in the city as many community centres, other social service agencies, and city systems grappled with the challenge of social distancing and lack of capacity to undertake a food delivery program.

We currently operate our emergency food delivery program 7 days a week and have helped support over 500 households with 1,180 food deliveries thus far. This work is exhaustive but critical for many community residents unable to get out and access food and/or experiencing additional financial hardship and job layoff. For these residents, this weekly food supports have significantly helped ease their worry about food access at this time.

While the province has eased social distancing restrictions which is welcome news for many people wanting to reconnect with friends and family, uncertainty remains as to how fast we can open up safely, especially for those individuals most at risk, including seniors, elders and others with pre-existing health concerns.

In the meantime, the financial fallout from this pandemic will be felt for some time. In response, we will continue to offer this essential food access service ensuring that our community members are not without healthy food for as long as needed.

The Power of Community

For better or for worse, this pandemic has changed everything and has exposed sever weaknesses in our institutions and systems, especially our food systems but it has also provided us a valuable opportunity to create a more sustainable, equitable and compassionate world. While COVID 19 has created hardship for many, it has also brought out the best in community and confirms our deeply held belief in the power of community in supporting our most vulnerable community members during this emergency.

This story really begins some 46 years ago when a community led effort envisioned and planned Britannia Community Centre as a full service delivery hub with a strong social development focus. To this day, Britannia provides a cradle (childcare) to grave (seniors) and everything in between programming including schools, library, recreation services along with many partners of which the Grandview Woodland Food Connection is one.  In fact, the Britannia model is quite unique in North America and through its nurturing of volunteer and community engagement, building of long-standing partnerships and collaborations, and committed community development work, we have very much strengthened the social fabric in our community.

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection was embraced by Britannia from our very beginnings and has allowed us to cultivate our skills and capacity to help build a more food secure community. As it turns out, this partnership and the strong relationships that we have built through the years with our community provides the foundation and resilience necessary to effectively respond to this pandemic.

Still, the reality that many people in our community are without proper access to food due to financial hardship is despicable in a society as wealthy as ours. As such, running an emergency food distribution program is not what we want to be doing. There is much work ahead and when this pandemic passes we will need to refocus our energy and work to effectively change those systems that result in poverty and marginalization in the first place.

Gratitude

Despite unanswered questions of where and how systems for food access supports should come, our community has responded with generosity and many community members, local businesses, and funders who have stepped up to support our efforts.

We especially want to thank the 300+ people who have donated to our gofundme campaign with funds used to purchase healthy food. You are proof that East Van cares and together we have lessoned the hardship for many households.

And a very special thank you to our funders and the many businesses that have donated and supported the East Van Cares Emergency Food Delivery. This pandemic has been especially hard on businesses and so we ask you to please support these and other local businesses that are so important in sustaining our local community economies.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello from the Grandview Woodland Food Connection

We hope that you are all well and staying healthy during these COVID times.

Just thought that we should give you a bit of an update on what the Grandview Woodland Food Connection is doing these days. All our regular programming has been put on hold for the time being. In its place, we have shifted our resources to Emergency Food Delivery, working 7 days a week , delivering up to 30 nutritious food boxes to community members who are in isolation and experiencing some form of hardship. We have now delivered 481 food boxes and logged in 385 hrs of volunteer time

If you know of anyone who is in isolation and/or in need of food assistance, please have them call us at 604-718-5828.

At the local level, and in our community here in East Van, I have been so impressed with how people are really stepping up to help each other. Through networks, mutual aid groups, community organizing, volunteerism, and giving, the best aspects of community are certainly seen here in East Vancouver.

And I am proud to be working for a Vancouver Neighborhood Food Network and proud of the work that we have been doing over the years to build a stronger local food system. Much of this work has laid the foundation for an active and engaged local food movement better able to respond to this pandemic.

Having said this, I do not mean to suggest that everything is fine. This pandemic has caught many of us off guard and we have much to learn from this experience. In particular, the pandemic is exposing severe inequity as well as critical weaknesses in our food systems. The fact that so many in our own communities are in need of food and living pay cheque to pay cheque is evidence a broken system. For example today, a senior and her husband living in Burnaby called us out of desperation. They were referred to us by the seniors 211 help line. They are both elderly, in poor health and unable and unwilling to go outside. Traveling to a food bank is out of the question. They have no food in the house and they have been calling everyone for help without success, finally calling us for help. Though we really only deliver in East Vancouver, we have been driving further afield, and fortunately, we have a driver from Burnaby who will deliver food to this couple in the next few days.

In response, we are working hard to address this food access challenge and have essentially become a de-facto food bank, not something we ever wanted to become. But we are starting to get into a flow with more food coming in and more food going out. We are now ordering bulk dry goods through East End Food Co-op who are generously purchasing food for us at cost as well as some food through Choices Food Market. Several other restaurants and businesses are donating pre-made meals including Pasture to Plate, The Reef, Havana Restaurant, the Swiss Bakery, Liquids and Solids, and Taybeh Syrian Catering (some through customer donations). The Italian Cultural Centre will be donating 50 pre-cooked meals weekly for us. A number of other possible donations are in the works.

Then there are the over 200 donors who have been supporting our gofundme East Vancouver Cares fundraiser campaign t raise money to cover costs to purchase healthy food for our food hampers. Your support has been so greatly appreciated by those receiving the food boxes. This is the power of community.

And finally, a big thank you to all our volunteer food sorters and drivers who have been so dedicated and supportive. It makes me proud to be living in East Vancouver.

Information about health and COVID-19

East Van COVID 19 Emergency Food Distribution Fundraiser

GoFundme

Due to  COVID-19, many community residents in East Vancouver are struggling. Many are in isolation with compromised immune systems and unable to get out to purchase food. Others are experiencing work layoffs or other financial hardship and suddenly in need of extra food supports.

As community resources shut down, Grandview WoodlandFood Connection at Britannia Community Centre continues to stay open. We are receiving multiple emails daily from community residents asking for food supports. In response, the Grandview Woodland Food Connection has established an emergency food centre and is working hard to ensure that all community members have access to healthy food at this particular time. We currently have a team of volunteers doing food delivery to seniors and other vulnerable community members and expect a growing need as the pandemic worsens.

At this time, we are seeking funds with all revenues used to purchase healthy food, provide gas, and cover other costs associated with delivering food to our community. Most importantly, we want to ensure that our efforts are helping to provide nutritious foods that support optimal health, especially for people with existing health conditions.

We know East Van has heart and understands the importance of community and mutual support! Please donate and help keep East Van food healthy!

Thank you,
Grandview Woodland Food Connection

Thank You Choices Food Market and Patrons

A big shout out to patrons of Choices Food Market for their generous donation to the Britannia Food Programs and the Grandview Woodland Food Connection as part of their Xmas Star of the Season store fundraiser.

Also, thank you Choices for their wonderful food hampers full of quality food that were distributed to 25 Grandview Woodland families over Xmas. The food was very much appreciated.

Efforts like these help relieve some of the pressure on households struggling to make ends meet. Particularly with the high cost of rents and other necessities of life, often little money is left to pay for quality food. Many participants in the Grandview Woodland Food Connection are working, but still not making enough. In response we need livable wages, affordable housing, significant increases to income assistance rates and much more to realistically pull people out of poverty. A “living wage” in Vancouver is close to $20/hr. However many people in our city earn far less. Low wages in Vancouver are compounded by the fact that Vancouver is a very expensive city to live in. So while we work to ease food insecurity, we must also be working to advocate for policy change and improved income and other supports.

Coalition for Healthy School Food

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection is pleased to be a member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food BC. Universal food programs are a strong Health Promotion focus with many benefits for children

The CHSF is seeking an investment by the federal government in a cost-shared, healthy Universal School Food Program that will enable all students in Canada to have access to healthy meals at school every day. In addition to federal investment, the BC-CHSF is seeking an investment by provincial and local governments of British Columbia in a cost-shared, healthy Universal School Food Program. Building on existing programs across the country, our vision is for all schools to serve a healthy meal or snack at little or no cost to students and families. These programs should include food education and serve culturally appropriate, local, sustainable food to the fullest extent possible.

Budget 2020

The Government of Canada is now seeking input for Budget 2020. As their website says: Take our surveys and share your ideas for Budget 2020. Send us an email. Have a big idea, or more to say? Share it with us by email and add your voice to #YourBudget. The deadline for submissions is Friday February 21, 2020.
This gives the Coalition for Healthy School Food a great opportunity to let the government know about our BIG IDEA, that is PRACTICAL and NEEDED, and that we want them to include funding for a universal healthy school food program in Budget 2020.  Please join the Coalition for Healthy School Food in building mass support for a universal, cost-shared, healthy school food program:
  1. Send an Email to budget2020@canada.ca
SUBJECT: School food needs to be in Budget 2020
Here is a draft email (also pasted in below) for you to adapt as you like and send to the Finance Committee. The goal is to build massive support to make the undeniable case to the Government of Canada to include a national school food program in Budget 2020.
  1. Spread the work via social media.
Help us amplify the message across social media! We need the government to understand that communities across Canada support a national school food program. Spread the word with your networks by copying and pasting the messages here (also pasted in below).
  1. Complete the Survey for #YourBudget
Feeling really keen? The government has also invited Canadians to give their opinion on topics such as poverty, environment, health and reconciliation. Take their survey here and let them know that a school food program is vital to the wellbeing of children. We will be preparing and sending you a guide to filling out the survey within the next few days if you’d like additional guidance on what to write in support of a school food program.
Hope you can participate in the Budget 2020 process to send a powerful message to Ottawa, and we hope that you can join us for our February 18th Coalition meeting.
4. Spread the work via Social Media
Help us amplify the message across social media! We need the government to understand that communities across Canada support a national school food program. Spread the word with your networks by copying and pasting the messages below:
TWITTER
  • Dear @FinanceCanada, it’s time to #NourishKidsNow and put money in the 2020 Budget for a cost-shared, universal healthy school food program! #YourBudget
  • Dear @FinanceCanada, thousands of Canadians want to see a cost-shared, universal healthy school food program, so that kids have the food they need to do their best. It’s time to #NourishKidsNow! #YourBudget
  • Dear @FinanceCanada, as a mother/father/aunt/uncle/grandparent, I believe that every child in Canada should have access to healthy food while at school. It’s time to #NourishKidsNow and add a school food program to the budget! #YourBudget
FACEBOOK
The federal @FinCanadaLiveEnDirect wants to hear from Canadians what they want in the 2020 Budget. We think it’s time to fund a universal healthy school food program, so that kids have the food they need to do their best at school.
_____________________________________________________________
(Draft email)
My name is [NAME] and my organization, [ORGANIZATION], is a member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. I am writing in response to the pre-budget consultation process, and I want to show my support for including a national school food program in the 2020 Budget, an initiative that invests in the health and wellbeing of children across Canada.
Such a program would ensure that children across Canada are nourished so that they can do their best at school and build skills to lead healthy lives. An investment by the federal government in a cost-shared Universal Healthy School Food Program would build on existing programs across the country and amplify their impact.
While such a program was named in the 2019 Budget, now is the time to finally fund and  implement this vital program, which would enable all students in Canada to have access to healthy meals.
I join Canadians from every province and territory in the call for a national school food program, and hope that the Government of Canada will include it in the 2020 Budget.
Sincerely,
[NAME]
[RIDING]

Grandview Woodland Food Connection 2019 Highlights

An enormous thank you to all who have supported the Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC) or who have volunteered and participated in our programs this past year. We have achieved much and continue to work hard to build a just and equitable food system for all in our community.

2019 was indeed a challenging year with the heartbreaking reality of the climate crisis setting in. Global food security is very much at risk and will impact the local cost and availability of food, especially for those who can least afford it. Indeed we have our work cut out for us as we must fully begin to make the shift to a sustainable future in the decade. Here at the GWFC, we are putting more thought into what a more integrated and equitable food system might look like at the community level, with a focus on improved healthy food access. This challenges us to always look beyond our organization for opportunities to collaborate with others in new ways to help close the food access gap, work to build community and ensure that we are supporting ecologically sustainable food systems locally and globally.

The GWFC has also undertaken a strategic planning process this past year and has determined that our own organizational challenges require some immediate work if we are to attain a more sustainable footing into the future. Our current work load and capacity is no longer viable given the ever present food security issues and needs

in our community. In part, we need to find new sources of funding to hire additional staffing. My first wish for the GWFC in 2020 is to secure part time funding to hire a school garden programmer to assume responsibility for this important food program. To this end, I am appealing for any support or ideas to help us achieve this rst goal.

While our challenges remain significant, we also enjoyed a very full and successful year. Every day brings new ideas and the many personal connections that we make on a daily basis confirm both the importance and the enjoyment that this work brings to me personally. Here are our top highlights for 2019,

Ian Marcuse, Coordinator for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection

1. Our Place Food Strategy

45885825_185316079071998_6497425344272793600_oThe GWFC, together with a number of local agencies involved in food programming, is pleased to be supporting a community based food strategy that is foremost place-based and collaborative. Working beyond our individual agencies, and through a greater sharing of resources and skills we strive to apply a collective impact approach to improving food access for all in the Vancouver inner city. We are presently engaged in a baseline needs assessment to best determine challenges and opportunities.

2. Wild Minds

48384762811_ce52c90bf9_oThis summer garden program was a wonderful collaboration with the Environmental Youth Alliance providing hands-on food growing and ecology education for Britannia students in the beautiful Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens. 13 amazing youth participated this year and learned about pollinators, native plants and soils, birds, seed-saving, composting and mulching, permaculture, animal habitat, garden maintenance, herbs and medicinals, and fruit growing, to name a few.

Wild Minds Report 
Wild Minds Photos

3. Sustenance Festival Sharing Food Sharing Culture

The GWFC along with Flavours of Hope held an enjoyable cross cultural food sharing event as part of the Sustenance Festival. We were joined by three amazing newcomer women – from the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela who each shared some of their favorite recipes and food stories. A full house, including a rich diversity of community members joined in the preparation of the food, followed by tasting the delicious food and story sharing.

Sustenance Photos

4. Bulk Buy Food Program

Now into our 10th year, the bulk food fruit and veggie wholesale purchasing program now bene ts 79 households saving them hundreds of dollars annually in food costs. With additional food donations from Choices Food Market, Discovery Organics and the Vancouver FoodBank, program participants receive a very large amount of quality food.

Bulk Buy Photos

5. Corn Festival

We always look forward to the Corn Festival, now a favorite tradition at Britannia and
a unigue taste of Latin America in East Vancouver during corn harvest time. Tasty food including pupusas, tamales, empanadas and tacos, celebrating the importance of corn to Latin Amercian people and culture is dished up with lively music, song and dance.

Corn Festival Photos

6. FoodFit

We are now in our second year for FoodFit as
part of a two year funding from the Community Food Centres of Canada and a partnership with Reach Community Health Centre. 55 Individuals have participated in this 13 week healthy living program with its mix of healthy activity and healthy food preparation and cooking. Participants are reporting feeling healthier and positive well-being as a result of the program.

FoodFit Photos

7. Fractal Farm Partnership

Fractal Farm is a local grower of sustainable vegetables based in East Vancouver and Richmond. They partnered with Britannia and the GWFC where Britannia provided Fractal Farm space to set up their Community Supported Agriculture program. In return, Fractal Farm donated $2,737 worth of high quality organic vegetables that supported our seniors and elder food programs.

Fractal Farm Photos

9. Grandview Woodland Community Seed Library

The Seed Library has been a success with 161 indivduals who have now received 436 packets of free seeds. Look out for the pop-up Seed Library monthly throughout the growing season in the Britannia library and at special events. A huge shout out to Christine Mak, our awesome volunteer who has been managing the library since its start.

Seed Library Photos

8. Farm 2 School Summer Student Program

We were thrilled to partner with Farm 2 School and Fresh Roots this past summer in the hiring of three summer students to help us water and maintain our Britannia School garden over the summer period. These summer students worked at 8 schools in East Vancouver rotating through each school daily. The extra help was very much needed and allowed us to help maintain the gardens, especially watering during the dry periods, ensuring that we had fresh veggies growing for the school upon return in the fall.

Farm 2 School Photos

10. Food Skills Workshops

32414211847_3d56c88ff8_oThe GWFC ran more food workshops and had more participants than ever, making this our best year to date. We organized a total of 12 workshops with 140 people partcipating. The workshops received high praise and included everything from fermentation to vegan cooking and Latin American to Syrian cuisine.

Food Skills Photos

11. Britannia School Garden

Our largest and most enjoyable program always is our school garden program which is all about connecting youth to the land and the source of healthy eating. Sure, for most children and teens, gardening is not foremost on their minds, but in the garden they are curious and eager to work. Many really connect to the garden and the tangible hands-on activities. This past year we worked with 5 classes and approximately 100 students in partnership with the Society for Environmental Conservation (SPEC)

School Garden Photos

12. Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks

The GWFC is proud to be an active member of the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks bringing leadership and a strong voice to the food network movement in Vancouver. This year, for the rst time, we we produced our collective impact report aggregating the work of all 15 networks in Vancouver and which provides crucial data on food access and services city-wide.

Read the Full Impact Report