Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society

Food First: The Community Connection

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 4:15pm

On January 27th, staff representatives from the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society participated in the City of Vancouver's public forum on the proposed Vancouver Food Strategy Report.

The new Vancouver Food Strategy proves that policy and governance are catching up with the food systems needs of the community. The Food Strategy outlines the many ways the City of Vancouver plans to address food security in our city; it includes plans to highlight purchasing from local food producers and farmers' and community markets and establish more community gardens and urban farms and plant more fruit-bearing trees. The Strategy also outlines ways to drastically reduce food waste in landfills through composting and other sustainable food waste disposal methods. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of supporting and enhancing community-based food programs like community kitchens and gardens, and looks to possibly establish a "food business incubator," which would support small-scale food entrepreneurs and could have the potential to create jobs and strengthen the local economy.

This Food Strategy was openly supported by everyone in attendance at the public forum and was later  unanimously approved by City Council; a notable win and dramatic step forward towards a food secure future in our city.

As we continue our work on our own strategic planning for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank's future and its legacy, it is uplifting to see the similarities and parallels of these key themes reflected in the work currently underway within our own organization. Emergency food is an important part of our mission and will be a component of how we help care for those in need in our community for some time to come, however we recognize that emergency food as a standalone is not the answer.

As a result, we are enthusiastically shifting, with a renewed focus on education, collaboration and skill enhancement as a way of helping people move forward in their lives. We are fostering growth through community kitchens and capacity-building programs, sourcing fresh and healthy locally-produced food for distribution, adopting a zero-waste policy for food and food waste, and collaborating with local health agencies and food producers to make sure we're offering the best nutritional and social value possible.

As an example, GVFBS recently partnered with the Vancouver School Food Network(VSFN) t hrough our  Fresh Choice Kitchens  program.   VSFN is a network of school, community, and health agencies and programs that are working towards healthier and sustainable school food systems in Vancouver.  VSFN helps teachers and other school staff start, maintain, and teach in school gardens and about local food.

Fresh Choice Kitchens utilized funding received from  Hain Celestial to  put together 6 bins of kitchen equipment for VSFN, who will arrange the loan and distribution of these bins to schools in the Vancouver School District. Each bin provides a classroom with kitchen equipment for 6 cooking stations.  Hundreds of teachers from the VSB have taken advantage of the knowledge and resources of Network organizations through the network’s professional development workshops. This school year, the VSFN is offering monthly after-school workshops for teachers who want to engage their students in food production, processing, and eating to explore topics of food, health, and the environment.

We are thrilled about our  partnership with VSFN and while it is just one example of how the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society can collaborate in a meaningful way, we recognize how critical it is that we grow these types of partnerships and actively contribute to strengthening our community as a whole.

We're excited that many of our core beliefs are reflected in the approved Vancouver Food Strategy and what that holds for the future of our community. We too, are in the process of taking new steps and in doing so, are committed to ensuring they are collaborative ones.

*Interested in participating in a community kitchen program? Fresh Choice Kitchens is offering a variety of upcoming workshops - register today !