Collaborative Food Strategy Seeks to Improve Food Security in Vancouver’s DTES

The Our Place Food Strategy includes 10 organizations throughout B.C.

Bags of healthy food provided by the GWFC. (Flickr/ Grandview Woodland Food Connection)

When the Our Place Food Strategy was first formed, it was considered a necessity by many people working to improve food security in B.C.

According to the website, the strategy’s goal is to “apply a collective impact approach to improving food access for all in the Vancouver inner city” by sharing resources and skills. Those resources and skills go into initiatives like community kitchens, food skills workshops, community and school gardens, and community markets.

When the pandemic hit and already-minimal resources became scarce, the strategy rose in importance.

“It kind of came together out of a recognition that we needed to look for more effective, better integrated food systems that work to leverage various resources,” says Ian Marcuse, Community Food Developer for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection.

“Now, due to COVID, many of us shifted the focus of our work to emergency food delivery or preparation. For example, we at the Grandview Woodland Food Connection are now doing emergency food delivery to 520 households in East Vancouver. We’re one of the few organizations in Vancouver that are actually doing home delivery.”

Marcuse says the organizations accept volunteers and donations from people who want to “get to know the people in their community, connect with community groups, and just offer their time and support.”

“When we look at things like climate change or the pandemic, we need to build community — people working together, building more community gardens, helping develop these food hubs,” he says.

Another project that this strategy is working on in response to COVID is a food hub in the Downtown Eastside. According to Marcuse, this hub will provide food storage, commercial kitchen space, and necessary space for community food programs.

Jill Ratcliffe, who works with the DTES SRO Collaborative, considers this project essential.

“The current charity-dominated model of food support isn’t working very well,” she says. “I think there’s a lack of dignity and connection that is really present in the Vancouver food system, and [the food hub is] just a really clear route for participation because it’s such a shared need.”

Ratcliffe says food security is “a form of harm reduction” and a way to share culture and lived experience.

“There’s a very clear view to dialogue for immense transformation [to food security systems],” says Ratcliffe. “That connection to food is really powerful.”

For more information on the Grandview Woodland Food Connection and the Our Place Food Strategy, visit their website.

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