Recap: Community Food Security Session #1
This month, key food actors from across the region gathered for our first Community Food Security Session to identify opportunities for collective impact through mapping our strengths.
In the face of what our neighbouring communities just experienced through wildfire this summer (and remembering our experience from two years ago), and based on what we have heard about the community and organizational response (especially when it comes to food for fire evacuees) – it is clear that we are more effective and resilient when working in collaboration. This has us thinking about our community resilience, including how we prepare for, respond and rebuild when there is an emergency or disruption.
In a roundtable style, participants shared their organizations’ strengths or “assets” that could be pooled or leveraged to collectively assess and address community need – now and during times of disruption. These ideas were captured on a Jamboard (pictured below). Then, in breakout rooms, participants were asked to discuss how their strengths could support each other for regional food security and/or to prepare for the next disruption.
As Liz (L2T Network Director) reflected: “It was interesting to hear how some individuals found it uncomfortable to talk about what they are good at (or perhaps best at) as an organization – we just don’t do that (it’s not really considered polite). Usually group conversations are based on what we don’t have or need most (though we discussed that too). But it can be said that when we are feeling uncomfortable then we must be on the right track… From this conversation came ideas of who else should know about our strengths – who can we engage with (and how) to collectively plan for emergencies and then really support each other when they hit home! We had really great ideas about building a resiliency fee into our project work – to build up a small funding pot so that we have dedicated resources to start planning for disruption as a community! This was just one example of the interesting conversations.”
Here is an outline of some of what we captured from the session:
Click image below for larger size.
Good Food Box: They have a clear mandate that makes for a strong program and the ability to pivot on the fly and to source local food quickly. The GFB team makes sure everyone gets food, no matter their limitations. They have strong community connections. GFB has a strong board which supports organizational stability.
Spallumcheen-Armstrong Food Initiative: They have committed volunteers who use social media to rally volunteer support in a powerful way.
Shuswap Food Action Society: They actively build community around local food and food security. All of their programs have doubled (e.g. community gardens, food literacy programs, Salmon Arm Farmers Market, etc.) in the last 1-2 years.
Interior Health: Acts as a liaison between governments and communities and helps create and bring resources and support to food security initiatives. They are well connected to the Provincial Ministries and can raise issues and awareness (up the line) of what is going on in communities. IH works across departments (food security, schools, early years) to collaboratively address issues.
FoodMesh: Coordinates surplus food to food-need and tracks the data.
Social Planning Council: Helps the City of Vernon understand the local non-profit perspective. They identify gaps, identify funding, help problem solve, coordinate groups and community response, and help others to access resources. During COVID, the community food agencies did not have to cancel a single meal as a result of that collaboration!
The Arbor Soup Kitchen: The Vernon Alliance Church has a large congregation and can support vulnerable people through assisting with financial donations and practical needs. They have a large volunteer base to support putting together food hampers.
Nexus: Connects seniors with resources and support (e.g. extra money for pensions, food services, etc.).
Vernon Senior Actions Network: Has access to many “boomer” volunteers. VSAN helps fill gaps for seniors- like emergency planning and preparation.
Monashee Coop: Nearly half of the population of Lumby is part of the Coop. The coop supports 65 local vendors and in the summertime are 90% true local (within a 40-mile radius). They can address members’ needs directly. They are doing wholesale bulk purchasing. They have a lot of volunteers of all ages and a strong volunteer accountant. And they are looking for ways to grow!
SD22 School Meal Coordinator, Dawn Guenette (currently at 4 schools): Brings healthy food to students in need through meal program delivery; and started a garden friends volunteer group to support school garden care (to ensure school gardens don’t just die in the summer).
Other strengths mentions:
- Community Foundation is a funder deeply integrated into the community that can provide flexible funding quickly during emergencies.
- The N.O. community is willing to collaborate and show up to sessions and events to get to know each other and learn about what everyone is doing.
Needs in our community
During our discussions, there were common needs identified for a more resilient food system.
- We need an Emergency Plan so response can happen quickly where the city works alongside community organizations. Municipalities aren’t resourced for emergencies since they are not anticipated at the frequency we are seeing them. The community doesn’t want to start from square one every time there’s an emergency when we can learn from the floods, fires, COVID, etc. This is the “new normal.”
- Include opportunities to debrief after the emergency to avoid the polarization that happens in times of stress and collect learnings to inform better response.
- Each organization needs their own plan that fits into a broader city/regional plan (these plans do not need to be complex).
- There should be government funding for nonprofits to help with the response since they are flexible, able to pivot, and often called on/filling gaps anyway.
- An Affordable Local Food Directory– so consumers know the local supply available to them. This would help when the global supply chain is disrupted. It would be helpful for families and seniors who can’t/won’t use the apps but are looking for reliable sources of affordable local foods.
- Resources for those “in-between”- those who have cooking facilities and homes, but who might be food insecure and who do not have options to look up where they can go for more affordable food sources
- Shared cold storage and dry storage is needed generally (by farmers, the Lumby Co-op, and food access organizations)
- More educational opportunities of how to use seasonal local foods so menus and meal plans can be adapted to what is available.
- Utilize the community’s bulk purchasing strength to supply food to programming
- Help farmers with crop planning to support local demand
- A need for a shared refrigerated vehicles.
This session was incredibly helpful for Land to Table, as the Regional Community Food Hub to identify funding, infrastructure, and partnership opportunities that can meet the needs of multiple organizations utilizing all of our strengths. It will also help L2T think about how we incorporate the role of building community resilience into our organizations function and structure.
Shared Infrastructure Planning & Grant Application
We recognize that many of these “needs” will take time to address. And we hope by sharing them here, others have the opportunity to move things forward! However, we also happen to be in a time of abundant funding to address infrastructure. We have heard again and again the need for storage and transportation support. We want to continue to have that conversation…
Two grants are currently available to support infrastructure. We strongly encourage organizations to utilize these opportunities, emphasizing the importance of collaboration. Land to Table is actively engaged in collaboration to pursue the following grant opportunities.
Bulk Purchasing Opportunities
You may have already heard about this work, but it’s worth repeating here…
L2T is helping to connect farmers to local food agencies for this fall and winter, and we are looking to develop growing contracts to serve community organizations next season. If you have available product you would like to sell this season, or if you are interested in crop planning for bulk purchasing opportunities next spring/summer/fall, please contact Sammy (firstname.lastname@example.org, 236-427-1265). L2T wants to make sure farmers are compensated fairly for their produce, and has the coordination capacity to help organize storage and transportation logistics to suit both the farmers and food agencies.
What we need this fall/ winter:
- Winter Squash
Save the Date for the Final 2 Sessions!
The Land to Table Regional Community Food Hub is excited to continue to collaborate on food security initiatives in our community. Please mark your calendars for the next two Community Food Security Sessions where we hope folks can provide updates of their needs, resources, and successes, and we can focus on specific food security projects and opportunities available to our network.