In place of our regular meeting in April, the Vancouver Food Policy Council and the City of Vancouver Food Policy co-hosted a Celebration of Food Policy in the City. We had a great turnout of old and new friends of the VFPC including some of our past members and City of Vancouver liaisons.
The evening opened with a history of food policy in the city that was shared by James O’Neill, a planner with Social Policy at the City of Vancouver and one of our awesome staff liaisons to the VFPC. Some key achievements since adopting the Food Strategy in 2013 include:
- Adoption of the Parks Board Local Food Action Plan – a policy to support and enable food related activities in our parks and recreation centres.
- Development of Vancouver’s Food Cart program – not that many years ago, we only had hot dogs on the street, Food Carts are now a permanent fixtures on our streets with food styles from all over the world.
- Reaching and exceeding the “2010 by the year 2010” garden plots target, and ongoing support of these gardens through infrastructure improvements.
- Establishing beekeeping and backyard hen guidelines
- A Farmers Market Policy that allows farmers markets as defined use on zoned lands, and not just a special event permits – there are now 13 seasonal farmers markets
- Funding to support Neighbourhood Food Networks through the Sustainable Food Systems Grants available each year.
- Initiating food scraps/green bin pick up from all single family homes.
- Supporting urban farming through zoning and development and licence bylaw changes.
Former VFPC co-chair Trish Kelly moderated our panel of engaging speakers who touched on some areas of the food system that have been especially impacted by the Food Strategy, including street food/food carts, waste management, emergency food provisioning, and the neighbourhood food networks.
We wrapped up the evening with our Golden Carrot Awards Ceremony. The awards were intended to honour and celebrate the significant and positive advances that have been made to create more just and sustainable food systems in the City of Vancouver. We invited members of the public to nominate individuals, teams, or organizations in each of five award categories, each aligning with a Vancouver Food Strategy goal.
In the goal area of “support food friendly neighbourhoods”, congratulations to award winner Jason Hsieh from Vancouver Park Board Staff and Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute!
Jason has been a champion of food friendly neighbourhood for many years, beginning with his work in the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood, and scaling out across Vancouver since working with Park Board with a food policy portfolio. He is skilled at building relationships and connections as a frontline facilitator, and in bringing stakeholders together across sectors at the policy level. From his work at the Neighbourhood House, Jason implemented “a vision premised on fresh ingredients, high nutritional quality, and creative reciprocal learning. He also established a neighbourhood reputation as someone who created warm, inclusive and food-friendly spaces”. He has been instrumental in leading community gardens, community food workshops and kitchen programs and mentoring youth leaders. At the Park board he has been a champion and tireless worker to increase access to gardening spaces, ensure the Park Board continues to support food programming as a tool of community development in community centres and park, and helped realize the food-focused Field House residency program.
In the goal area of “empower residents to take action”, congratulations to award winner Hives for Humanity!
Hives for Humanity is a non-profit organization that encourages community connections through beekeeping. They have grown from one bee hive to over 100 hives around the city with over 1 million bees! They were nominated for their work that empowers residents through learning and mentorship, as well as for the work they do building strong partnerships and collaborations between individuals and organizations in the DTES. They foster connectivity to nature and to each other. They support at-risk populations of people and pollinators, and they do it with respect and joy. They also participate in and create local sustainable economies with the honey, candles, salves and tinctures that they develop with community. You can purchase their yummy honey at a number of retailers around town.
In the goal area of “access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food”, congratulations to award winner Najia Elacel from the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute!
Najia wears many hats: she is a kitchen facilitator, community connector and community chef all at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Najia goes above and beyond to improve access to healthy, affordable, and culturally diverse food for all residents whether for a group of 20 at a community kitchen workshop or 150 at a neighbourhood wide Christmas lunch. She is extremely successful in creating a safe space for stories to be shared and skill-building opportunities to take place. She uses food as a tool to work across communities and differences to bring people and programs together in unique and innovative ways. E.g. working with the Collingwood Building Service Workers to facilitate an evening workshop on Tandoori Chicken, and collaborating with Collingwood’s Settlement Team to connect and support Syrian families to build safe and inviting space around the kitchen to share their stories as they navigate the settlement in Canada. It is evident that Najia continues to inspire other community members to get involved and see their own strengths and potential. She continues to give a tremendous amount to the neighbourhood.
In the goal area of “Make Food A Centrepiece of Vancouver’s Green Economy”, congratulations to award winner Sole Food Street Farms!
Founded in 2008 by Michael Ableman and Seann Dory, Sole Food’s mission is to provide low-income residents of the Downtown Eastside with “jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a supportive community of farmers and food lovers.” Being a non-profit social initiative, priority is placed upon improving the community and providing employment for people with barriers to traditional employment and who may be struggling with other challenges. Employees receive paid training, secure and flexible work hours, and gain skills that are transferable to other employment opportunities. In 2013, Sole food distributed $40,000 worth of healthy and local produce to DTES agencies and kitchens. Sole foods continues to push the boundaries and innovation on urban farming and the green economy. Through their innovation and leadership they make us all think about the new possibilities of what our food system could be in an urban setting.
In the goal area of “Advocating for a Just and Sustainable Food System”, congratulations to award winner the Greater Vancouver Food Bank!
The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is leading significant change. They are moving from a traditional food bank model to one that focuses on quality of food, food access and choice and building food skills and food literacy. The Food Bank is transforming the way they do business empowering people to nourish themselves by providing access to healthy food, education and training. As they themselves make these changes, they are pushing others to make changes as well – and make others think about the role of food banks in our community. They’re leading by example by: buying directly from farmers, changing their model of food depots to community food hubs, and developing Curbside Fresh Program which provides affordable healthy food in neighbourhoods.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to the event and who put in extra time to make the event happen, especially David Speight from UBC Food Services for the delicious and colourful platters of food that provided the important nourishment for us that night, our staff liaisons Sarah Carten and James O’Neill who did much of the organizing, our special guests Sarb Mund, Patrick Chau, Aart Schuurman Hess, Lauren Brown, and Trish Kelly, our staff, Council, and Parks Board liaisons for handing out our Golden Carrot Awards, and to Maria – our official event photographer!