A Year of Food Reflection

If my very busy year was any indication of how popular food security has become then 2012 should be named the year of the food. Food Security, local food, urban agriculture and the work of Neighbourhood Food Networks have flourished and now very much mainstream and on the minds of more people than ever.

For the Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC) we continue to run a variety of core programs that support access to healthy and affordable food for families in East Vancouver – programs like our Bulk Buying Group, Community Kitchens, Food and Gardening Workshops, School Gardening Programs and the Celebratory Festivals. Truth is we are also very involved in a whole lot of other projects – as partners, supporters, and consultants. And with the growing interest in food security these days, we are involved in more projects than we have the space to mention.

But special mention needs to be made of the work we are doing at the city-wide level to build the Neighbourhood Food Networks (NFNs) movement in Vancouver. The NFNs have now grown to 10 formally recognized NFNs with Networks now in Grandview Woodland, Hastings Sunrise, Renfrew Collingwood, South Vancouver, West Side, Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, West End, Mt Pleasant, and Cedar Cottage as well as Village Vancouver food networks in other neighbourhoods. All of us have been meeting regularly and engaged in a whole lot of sustainability planning to ensure our flourishing into the future. This means more outreach and communications, education, and funding planning. As challenging as this is, especially in these years of fiscal austerity and busy schedules, it is also an interesting an engaging opportunity to build the Neighbourhood Food Network’s profile in our City.

And like past years, 2012 was a year of many highlights. Here are a few worth mentioning

Britannia Gardening Program – The Britannia School Gardens, known as Nexway̓s wa lh7áy̓nexw or Transformed Life in Coast Salish (Halkomelem) are beginning to mature and with increased production there is a noticeable shift in student awareness and interest in the gardens and the growing of food. More and more students are involved in part through our partnership with Environmental Youth Alliance who are teaching in 4 classrooms and the Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership summer gardening internship. It has also been very rewarding for the youth to see food harvested going to the cafeteria.

New Gardening Workshops – With new school gardens on site, we have been able to organize gardening workshops through Britannia Community Centre for the very first time making this garden space an important new teaching and demonstration garden for the community at large.

Britannia Garden / African Garden Twinning Project and Fundraiser – In partnership with Slow Food’s Thousand Gardens in Africa, the Britannia School Garden is now twining with the SEGA Girls School Garden in Tanzania. We plan for some interesting knowledge exchanges in the coming years. A successful film fundraiser this year raised $2800 for both gardens.

The 17th Annual Stone Soup Festival and the Latin American Corn Festival – These two much loved festivals continue to grow at Britannia and attract lots of community members reminding us how important it is to celebrate food and community.

Britannia Food Policy – The GWFC is leading an important shift here at the Britannia Community Centre to become leaders in healthy eating. Working on new Community Centre food policy, we will soon start by shifting all our vending machines over to healthy food option….bye bye junk food.

Sustenance Festival – Along with the other Neighbourhood food Networks, the GWFC was proud to play an important role at this year’s Sustenance Festival highlighting the many food assets in Vancouver. We helped to create a dynamic display and audio visual presentation that visually captured that many amazing programs and initiatives of the NFNs.

Treehouse Treats – The GWFC is a key consultant in the Vancouver Fruit Tree / Environmental Youth Alliance Treehouse Treats Social Enterprise turning reclaimed backyard fruit into tasty galettes that are sold at local farmer’s markets. Money raised is helping to support income generation for youth engaged in food production.

Mingye Chen – Our 2012 Britannia School Garden Club president, with support from the GWFC, wins the very prestigious Top 20 Under 20 national award for her work in the garden.

All in all, a very good year.

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