By Ian Marcuse, Community Connector
Grandview Woodland Food Connection
An exciting direction that things are going in Vancouver is the development and commitment by both the Provincial Health Authority and the City government to support so-called Neighbourhood Food Networks (NFNs). It acknowledges that grassroots, local level networks are the best vehicle to responding to the needs of its residents.
Acknowledgement is given to a City Council that gets the food issue and has been a strong proponent of policy supporting local food security, starting with farmer’s markets and community gardening. Fortunately we have had a progressive City government the last few years that has been pushing a Greenest City mandate, of which food security is a part. And within food security, the city is just now working creating a new Vancouver Food Strategy, which also sees NFNs as playing a key role in everything, particularily our emphasis on health and access.
We also have a citizen based Food Policy Council, which has a local food networks sub committee addressing the needs of us NFNs. For example they have provided funding to host a series of public presentations on NFNs, one of which was included a meeting with senior City and Parks managers, in part, to look at what resources are available to support both the physical and human capacity within a community centre or other infrastructure.
At the provincial level, a program called the Community Food Action Initiative (CFAI) has been critical in providing core funding to establish a number of NFNs. Is is not alot of money, but has achieved tremendous outcomes. This program so far has received enough support to keep it going. A link below is of a recent Vancouver Coastal Health CFAI evaluation, which will hopefully boost support for the program, or at least not have funding cut. CFAI has just recently dedicated some money to hire a consultant to do some strategic planning and funding research to help build NFN sustainability. They are very proud of this model and the health outcomes that have been reported.
The model is very much based on a partnering the NFNs with Community Centres or Neighbourhood House where longer term sustainability may be achieved through embeddenss in these institutions with greater human and physical capacity. Most NFNs are connected to such institutions now, though, in my case and many, we still have an independence and operate in the wider community, beyond the confines of the community centre. We also bring a much more focused community development approach to the work of the community centres, many of which have a recreation service delivery focus.