THE 2017 YEAR END TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS 

1. Ten Years and Growing

I am thrilled to have celebrated my 10th year as coordinator of the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, having started in the summer of 2007. I am also very proud to have seen the GWFC grow into a strong and stable organization, providing a range of innovative food programming through Britannia Community Centre over the past decade. Together with Britannia, we are recognized as leaders in the community food sector meeting a wide range of community needs particularly focusing on households who are struggling to put healthy and affordable food on the table.

As we look ahead to 2018 and with the Britannia Renewal on the near horizon (see below), we are very excited by the new possibilities to grow the GWFC significantly. Stay tuned to exciting new developments in the year ahead.

Ian Marcuse

2. SUKKOT FESTIVAL CELEBRATED

110 community members joined us Oct 10th in this sharing of food, community connections, and celebration of the Jewish Sukkot Holiday. Sukkot expresses universal themes of harvest celebration, cultural identity, human vulnerability, and community. We were privileged to receive a welcome and blessing ceremony from Senaqwila Wyss of the Squamish Nation, whose lands we have come to occupy and live on followed by a Sukkot blessings from Rabbi Hannah Dresner,  An amazing dinner was then served up by Tayybeh, a Syrian social enterprise catering business that is supporting a group of recent Syrian immigrants to Vancouver.  Wonderful conversations ensued, signing, and sharing a wonderful dinner made for a beautiful event.

View more Sukkot photos

3. WILD MINDS YOUTH SUMMER GARDEN PROGRAM

Wild Minds brought together a group of 12 youth for a summer gardening and ecology program where they  had the opportunity to visit various gardens and natural areas and helped to re-wild a beautiful community garden space in Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens transforming then into a more diverse ecosystems. In the process, youth experienced a deep connection to nature and, gained new skills and knowledge about food growing, ecology, healthy eating, and environmental leadership.

Over the 9 sessions that the youth participated, they learned about bees and pollinators, native plants and soils, seedsaving, composting and mulching, permaculture practice, natrual dyes, and plant clothing, animal habitat, food growing and garden maintenance, urban farming, herbs and medicinals, and fruit growing, to name a few.

Read the full Wild Minds report

4. OFF THE GRILL YOUTH MEAL PROGRAM

Now in its 5th year, Off the Grill is a community meal program with a difference. With its focus on supporting youth well being and healthy food access, OTG is working to create positive connections between youth and other community members in the main outdoor Britannia plaza where many of the youth like to hang out.  Twice a week during the warm weather months, the plaza area becomes a hive of community connection around a communal dinner prepared by youth under the mentorship of a professional chef. OTG’s goals include youth food skills building, health promotion through nutritious food preparation, and community building and social inclusion through food sharing. Big thank you to Pasture 2 Plate for their organic grass fed meat donations.

View more Off the Grill photos

5. WILD SALMON CARAVAN

Another spectacular Wild Salmon Caravan Mardi Gras style parade with drumming, regalia, costumes, floats, signs, banners and more, which all express in celebration our love for and deep concern to protect Wild Salmon. Led by the Salish Matriarchs, the parade started at the Native Friendship Centre and walked up Commercial Drive to Trout lake where a salmon ceremony was held at the lake then followed by an amazing salmon feast, speakers, and performances. The GWFC is honored to help organize this event, recognizing that salmon are a critical food justice issue, in particular, for its importance to Indigenous people and a whole host of other species that depend on salmon for their survival.

 

Check out the Wild Salmon Caravan Parade Video

6. Britannia Renewal

Britannia Community Centre where the Grandview Woodland Food Connection is located will be renewed in the next few years, which means a new community centre. The GWFC has been front and centre in the Renewal planning advocating for new and improved food infrastructure as part of the new development. This includes a substantially larger and functional commercial kitchen, dinning halls, more food storage, greenhouse, and food growing areas.

Good news is the community is overwhelmingly supportive, recognizing that food plays a central role at Britannia and is important to all programming. It is like the heart of the centre and for all practical purposes we hope to see a centrally built food hub accessible and adjacent to main event space, and program spaces including the seniors, childcare, and youth spaces that make use of kitchen spaces regularly.  A final Master Plan is expected early in the new year.

We also prepared 6 community meals serving over 370 people as part of the public consultations.

7. GWFC Food Recovery

Food recovery, also known as food rescue is an important issue these days as we come to understand the enormous waste in our food system whether the waste is in production, shipping, retail and distribution, or even in our own fridges. The World Food Organization estimates that around 1/3 of all food produced globally is wasted, which is enough to feed billions.

As part of our effort to recover some of this waste, we have been collecting quality, mostly organic food from Choices Food Market and most recently, from Discovery Organics. This includes produce that may have some cosmetic damage or packaged food near or just past the best before date.  While there is concern that we are reproducing a two tier food access system, we need to ensure that the food is of a high quality. We also believe that much of food rescue should not be seen as food only fit of those in need, but which is quality food that all of us should be eating in our effort to reduce food waste.

Last year we collected over 10,000 lbs of food recovery, which was used in various meal programs and distributed through our Bulk Buy program.

 

8. Britannia Volunteer Workparty and Social BBQ

Had a great Volunteer Workparty and social with 18 of Britannia’s wonderful volunteers this summer who came out to the Nexway̓s wa lh7áy̓nexw (Transformed Life) School Garden at Britannia. We got alot of work done and had a delicious bbq dinner complete with fiddle music.  We would like to turn this into a yearly event as it was very popular.

Check out more Photos

9. Bulk Buy Program

Our Bulk Buy program continues to grow with 75 households now participating in the program from a range of backgrounds including many who are working but feeling financially pinched, seniors on pensions, folks on disability and income assistance and others. The program costs $14 to purchase wholesale produce from Freshpoint Foods which saved participants roughly 40% or a total of $2,800 over retail costs in 2017..

This past year we conducted our fist full evaluation of the program and hope to release the full findings soon, but we can report that 94% of participants reported eating more fruits and vegetables since joining in the program. In addition this year, we have been able to add more donated and free food, including organic rescue from Choices and Discovery Organics, a new newsletter, and starting this next year new food skills workshops for Bulk Buy participants.

10. Britannia School Gardening Program

Another wonderful year in the Britannia school gardens working with several Britannia classes every few weeks through the school year. School gardening continues to be our main focus. Working with youth has always made alot of sense, cliche aside, youth are the future and school gardening provides a very tangible, accessible,and practical way to teach youth about healthy eating and environmental leadership.

This past year we partnered with the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) who led several interesting workshops of seed saving, composting, soils, and other gardening topics. We also worked closely with Metis herbalist Lori Snyder who taught us alot about native plant foods and medicines and how to cultivate them for our health. Was also great to deepen our integration of classroom curriculum and the garden, connecting students to topics including fungus and mosses, invertebrates, soil biology, and plant evolution.

Check out our school garden 2017 photos

Fall School Gardening

Had a beautiful day in the Britannia Secondary School garden today with herbalist Lori Snyder who shared with us her plant knowledge. Also showed us how to make cedar hydrosol, much like an aromatherapy. Also cleaned up the garden, harvested some parsnips which we brought over to the school cafeteria, pruned the raspberries, covered the beds with leaf mulch in preparation for the winter, and planted some more native plants including Lingonberry, Evergreen Huckleberry, Nootka Rose, Thimbleberry, and Red and Black Currant in the šxʷqʷeləwən ct Carving Centre garden.

Britannia Sukkot Festival Celebrated

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection/Britannia Community Centre in partnership with the Jewish Museum and Archives was very pleased to host the Sukkot Holiday celebration at Britannia on Oct 10th providing community a wonderful opportunity to experience this wonderful Jewish holiday. Over 120 people joined us in celebration, learning, and sharing in a wonderful Syrian dinner By Tayybeh that was held in the šxʷqʷeləwən ct Carving Centre.

Each year in October, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is celebrated. It is both agricultural in nature, celebrating the harvest, as well as historical, commemorating the forty-year period during which the Jewish people roamed the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

The word “Sukkot” refers to the temporary dwellings or Sukkahs that were lived in during the exodus and in which all are invited to live and eat during this holiday period in memory of the “period of wandering”. Sukkahs are built with certain design principles including exposure to the natural elements, and symbolizing human fragility along with resilience and community as family and community gather together in the Sukkah to share food and sleep.

As a part of our Sukkot event, we commissioned an architectural firm to create an original sukkah specifically for our event. Following an artist call out, FSOARK Architect Inc. created a gorgeous Sukkah called eyepiece (see photos below)  and described here in the artist statement.

“Eyepiece is comprised of interconnected triangular wooden frames, in which foraged plant specimens are cast in thin lenses of bioplastic, creating a completely biodegradable structure. The design is inspired by the idea that a sukkah roof is protective yet permeable – an “imperfect” covering that offers the occupants an intimate connection with the shared cosmos. The duality of a sukkah roof is the kernel of the design concept; it functions both as a microscope through which we examine our own faiths, as well as a wide angle lens broadening our perspectives on the faiths of our neighbours. The plant materials that form the roof of Eyepiece include species native to BC, all of which form part of Coastal Salish peoples’ traditional and contemporary diet and cultural use. The selection not only embraces the Indigenous peoples’ plant knowledge and cultural heritage, but also draws our attention to the subtle beauty of our land, and the fragile balance that allows these plants to thrive. By presenting a montage of specimens mimicking the setting of a natural history museum, we encourage the occupants to reexamine the deeper and broader meaning of our existence, one plant at a time”.

Sukkot expresses universal themes of harvest celebration, agricultural origins, community, cultural identity, along with human vulnerability both historical and contemporary including displacement, migration, and colonization to name a few. Interestingly, Sukkot offers close parallels with the struggles of Indigenous communities to reclaim their land and cultural identity. As such, the Britannia Sukkot Festival brought together community members from diverse cultures to celebrate the harvest through a community feast and sharing in both a Jewish Sukkot and Coast Salish led ceremonies, recognizing and acknowledging that we are on unceded and occupied Coast Salish territory.

Photos by Wendy Oberlander and Ian Marcuse

 

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November School Gardening

Despite a grey and wet day yesterday, we managed to get out into the Britannia Secondary School garden with Outreach Alternate too dig up dandelions and make apple cider vinegar tinctures including rose hip, nettle, and yarrow. Plants are healing and the students really got into it curious and enthusiastic to be learning about the unique ways that plants are medicines. Thank you to our herbalist Lori Snyder for sharing her plant knowledge.

Raise the Rates Welfare Food Challenge 2017 – Last day

Like last year, participating in the Welfare Food Challenge has helped me to better understand the lived reality for people living on Income Assistance. Everyone knows that living on $710/month in Vancouver with the high cost of housing and food and all, is completely unrealistic. Where does the rationale for $710 come from? How can policy makers truthfully justify this number?

Eating on $19/week as I have this past week confirms what we all must know, which is that Income Assistance rates are cruel and punishing. I have felt hungry most of the week, I feel a bit more tired, I am sure that I have lost some weight. A person cannot live with any dignity on such little money. Worse, they are apt to get sick. With little money to purchase food, those on IA are then dependent on the charity sector to get by….a shocking development that we have seen institutionalized in this recent era of neo-liberalism and downloading of government responsibilities onto communities. For more on this subject read Graham Riches indictment of the charity food sector in First World Hunger Revisited: Food Charity or the Right to Food.

I have always believed that the measure of a just and compassionate society is how we treat our most vulnerable. I believe in the adage that the wellbeing of each individual is inextricably tied to the wellbeing of all. Sadly, we find ourselves living in a greedy, consumerist society in which our (self) worth becomes measured by our purchasing ability. It is hard to feel hopeful these days but there are glimmers of hope as people around the world are fighting back. Our new NDP provincial government has promised to tackle poverty, a pro cyclist woman mayor was just elected in Montreal, the first transgender member of a state legislature in Virginia, Democrat Danica Roem, beat out a republican, a progressive feminist Prime Minister was just elected in New Zealand. There  is a rise in activist politics and a growing resistance to policies of hate and discrimination……There is hope.

Overhauling our income assistance policy is an important fight also for food justice, ensuring that those who are struggling (and we all struggle from time to time) get the support they need to get ahead, to get healthy, to feel connected to others, to feel a part of community, to feel a positive self worth, and to be an active member of the community however one freely chooses. This should not be so hard to achieve. Imagine how great it would be if everyone was well fed, well housed, well paid, well loved. This is the community I want to live in.

Ian Marcuse

Raise the Rates Welfare Food Challenge – Day 6

Looking at other food is really hard. I feel spoiled by the variety of food that I normally have access to …. as I said in my post from yesterday. I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone on low income to go into any store full of amazing food to eat.  In fact, I find myself not wanting to go into stores at all. I avoid contact with food other than what I need to eat and as I become more aware of my obsession with food, I am also trying very hard to put all food out of my mind. This could become very stressful.

As I sit here and type, wondering what of anything important I have to say, I am feeling very aware that I actually feel very hungry. I take back what I said earlier about the rice and lentils perhaps being enough.  I really want  to cheat right now, run out and grab some potato chips, anything to satiate myself. Maybe water will help. Okay, get some water….I am back, yes, the water helped a little. I must be loosing weight. My stomach is definitely flatter, but for a slim person like I am, I really do not want to loose any more weight.  Without a question, $19 is a starvation diet.

So people then turn to the Food Bank or programs like ours, whether they be community kitchens, bulk buy programs, or other community meals to get by. It is not like there is not enough food for people, but we have put an economic cost on food and much of it is becoming unaffordable, even for working people.  We have put a cost on poverty or a cost on a person’s self worth and what we are saying is that you have no worth, unless you can afford to consume. In response we need to let people know that they are valued. We need to say that no matter what a person’s lived situation is, that everyone has the right to good quality, nutritious food. We should all be able to walk into Choices Food Market and buy what we want, to have food choice.

Instead, if you have no money, you get what scrapes are given to you, mostly food of such poor quality that it will make a person sick.  You get donations which for the most part are overly processed carbs, you live on pasta and tomato sauce or hotdogs or whatever other food is really cheap.  While it is possible to eat healthy on a budget, by preparing more grains and veggies, such as lentil dahl, a person still cannot live on $19/week. My healthy plates of broccoli, eggs, lentils and rice that I have been eating this week are okay from a nutritional perspective, but it is still not nearly enough. For me to adequately fill up, I would need  to go to some food program, which may or may not give me healthy food. Again, I get what I get…no choice.

I leave you with this rather unappetizing look at how hot dogs are made, some of the food people eat to fill their bellies.

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