WIld Minds Summer Youth Garden Program

For 10 glorious days this past summer, a group of youth came together with WILD MINDS and experienced a deep connection to nature where they had the unique opportunity to help re-wild an urban space, once a garbage dump and now an ecologically rich and diverse ecosystem.

The Wild Minds partnership brought together the Environmental Youth Alliance, the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, and Evergreen Foundation each providing youth mentorship and expertise in ecology, gardening, and youth engagement. The spaces to explore, the learning opportunities, and the simple beauty of these gardens are providing the youth a new persective of the city

Thank you to Evergreen Foundation Seeds of Change for their generous funding of this project.



Britannia Carving Pavilion Garden 2016

The rain finally let off just long enough for us to plant our new indigenous plants with the Britannia Secondary School Outreach class. The kids did well and are starting to warm up to the garden that they will continue to take care of as it grows. Funded through the Neighbourhood Matching Fund and working with herbalist Lori Snyder, the garden at the Britannia Community Services Centre Carving Pavilion will feature all indigenous plants and serve as an educational garden teaching us about traditional and contemporary Indigenous food, medicinal and other uses.

BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and the Living Wage for Families Campaign

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and the Living Wage for Families Campaign are hosting a 2-day workshop on Nov. 15-16 in Richmond for folks in poverty or those that work with them to develop skills and leadership in raising awareness and advocacy for systemic change. They are reaching out to 20-30 people from across the province with priority given to folks from indigenous organizations, newcomer organizations and directly impacted grassroots organizations. They are covering travel, accommodation, food and other expenses to make this event fully accessible.

Many local groups are over-burdened with dealing with the symptoms of poverty and need support in taking action at the systemic level to tackle the root causes of poverty. This workshop will bring together key provincial stakeholders for an intensive 2-day workshop in order to identify existing assets and work collaboratively on developing an effective provincial network. There has not been a provincial gathering of this nature in recent history so this has the potential to have a powerful impact.

During the workshop, asset mapping will demonstrate the strength of existing local initiatives and provide opportunities for learning across communities. The gathering will also include an evaluation of supports needed to work on systemic change and what is the most effective way to nurture that support within the local, regional and provincial context without adding too much to over-stretched groups.


BC Poverty Reduction Coalition

#810 – 815 West Hastings Street

Vancouver, BC  V6C 1B4

Coast Salish Territories

tel: 604-877-4553

Britannia School Potato Farm Harvest

Out behind the Britannia Elementary School is our Potato Farm, as we like call it. Four large potato boxes provide our grade 3 and 4’s the full food cycle experience of planting the spuds in the spring, watering, mounding, watching the plants grow, digging up the spuds in the fall, then preparing and eating what they grew. For the kids, the entire process is akin to a boisterous party as the children scream with pleasure, especially when digging up the potatoes, as if they are seeking lost treasure.

Planting the potatoes starts with the grade 3’s, usually in May. By October the spuds are ready for harvesting and for those students who are now in grade 4, its time to dig them all up. This year we dug up about 100 potatoes or a milk crate full. The students will then clean, chop, and roast the potatoes along with beets, parsnips, and turnips that they collected from another garden area. Each year a new group of Grade 3’s get to learn all about potatoes. The potato planting is extremely popular for the children and provides a very practical and fun learning experience that sticks in the kid’s minds.

Most students are very knowledgeable about food growing and healthy eating. To our surprise, many describe liking veggies such as kale and brussel sprouts. However, many of our students live in apartments and don’t have gardens at home, so are super keen to work in our gardens and grow their own food.

The Britannia School Gardens are quite extensive with four large garden areas that provide food growing learning for several classes in both the secondary and elementary schools on site. Our garden programs run year round and engage about 100 students each year. The Potato Farm is our most enjoyable project, simply because the younger students are so enthusiastic and excited to learn. As an organizer, to witness this level of engagement is very satisfying.

Working with the younger students is strategic. The younger students are very inquisitive and more open to gardening than older students. The Potato Farm and other garden activities familiarize these students with the garden earlier so they are comfortable working in the gardens as they graduate into secondary school. They are also more knowledgeable and less shy and have established a good relationship with the school garden organizers.

We are very proud of our garden programs here at Britannia, which connect students directly to the land and source of food along with issues of environmental sustainability. Students are gaining important skills and knowledge that best come through such hands-on learning. For many students, their time spent in the gardens, digging up potatoes and other veggies, are some of their most memorable school activities.

Welfare Food Challenge – Day 7 (Final)

I ended my Challenge this past Sat evening, a few hours before the end of the week, at a Witness event where a feast was served. It seemed contradictory, but somewhat fitting to end my Challenge where delicious healthy food was offered and shared amongst a group of research participants and their family and friends (witnesses) who were involved in a place-based learning project exploring traditional environmental knowledge and sustainability. The dinner was amazing – salmon, wild rice, and roasted vegetables and all the more amazing when eating with a group of interesting people. Had I still been on the Challenge I would not have been able to attend the event. I would have missed this wonderful social and educational event.

Attending the feast highlights the very important social aspect of food along with my privilege. Food brings people together and I am fortunate to have ben invited, to be a part of an interesting, intelectual, and stimulating community. Food in this case signals class privilege.

I also now see how much I take food for granted. …that it will always be there for me, without fully realizing the central role it plays in my life. Ending this challenge, with its severe limitations, with a life affirming feast, reminded me that food provides us more than mere physical sustenance. Food feeds my social experience, nourishes my emotional well being, connects me to culture and identity, invokes memory and story, and so on. Food nourishes my whole being.

My partner’s diet was also compromised this week. While she was not on the Challenge, she was also affected. Since food is social we were not preparing food together. She had plenty of good food around, but the familial patterns of preparing food together disrupted her daily healthy food practice.

We need to take social responsibility for changing this system so everyone has good food to eat. Expecting an individual to live on $18 a week for food is cruel. It reduces a person to basic survival and illness at worst. Ideally, the basis of a dignified food system nourishes the whole person.

Now that I have ended my Welfare Food Challenge, I feel an increased conviction to take a hard look at the work I am doing to support groups like Raise the Rates and food justice in my community. I am very interested in the many discussions and efforts within the context of our work as community food developers with the Neighborhood Food Networks to better understand this term food justice. I am also encouraged by recent discussions globally that are now pointing the way towards a new food justice understanding defined by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshias in their book Food Justice as “representing a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities”. This focus creates new opportunities for a deeper analysis of structural inequality in the food system. It also requires connecting food inequality to broader social policy and movements.

Being on the Welfare Food Challenge has helped me to better understand the challenges that those on income assistance face. For one week, I embodied the struggle which made it a bit more real for me, though fully grateful that I have stability in my life. And with this stability and privilege, I will continue to work for a more just world as an ally to my friends and fellow community members who themselves are struggling.