The City of Vancouver is developing a food strategy and we want your help. The Vancouver Food Strategy will focus on creating a healthy, sustainable food system that benefits people, the local economy, our environment and development of our city. Come to a Food Strategy event in your community or invite us to your event. Email your ideas and feedback on food system priorities at foodpolicy[at]vancouver.ca

Next steps for the Vancouver Food Strategy…

The Food Policy team is moving forward with the Vancouver Food Strategy! We are finishing up our consultation and engagement phase, and wanted to say a special thanks to all of you who have been involved along the way. We’ve been having a great time talking food with Vancouver, and are now on track with our next phasing - writing the Food Strategy! Stay tuned…

Growing food, growing friendships: Connecting community garden coordinators

On January 19th, the Food Policy team connected with community garden coordinators from around the city. This was the first time that these amazing individuals had come together as a group, and the coordinators shared information with us and each other about the types of partnerships they’ve been forming, the types of education opportunities they provide, and their experiences both growing food and building communities. We spent the majority of the evening brainstorming about the future of community gardens, which gave us lots to consider as we continue developing a Food Strategy that will support a healthy, sustainable and inclusive food system.

Talk Street Food With Us - An Ideas Forum

We’re still keen for you to “talk food with us” - and this time, tell us what kind of street food you want on our streets! The City of Vancouver and the Food Policy team are looking for your ideas and preferences for the kind of food you would like to see from our street vendors in order to diversify and strengthen our street food program.
So far, there has been a wonderful amount of ideas submitted, and we encourage our potential vendor applicants to review these great ideas.
As part of the Street Food Selection process, there will also be a  ’A Street Food Taste Test’ on Feruary 24th. Three lucky people participating in this Ideas forum will be randomly selected to sit on the judging panel and weigh in on which street food makes the cut!  The Ideas forum closes on Feb. 3rd.

Vote for you favourite idea, or submit your own:

http://vancouver.ideascale.com

Food Stories in the City: Polish Sunflowers

And one more from Christina Alm at City Studio…

Polish Sunflowers

Yesterday I decided to take advantage of the late season sunlight, and the few hours of free time that I had before my afternoon archaeology class started, and spent it in my community garden plot preparing it for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. While I was doing so, I was interrupted by a young woman from the neighbourhood asking some questions about the way the garden worked, and more specifically if she could purchase fruits and vegetables from the gardeners. I didn’t really know what to tell her, I thought maybe she was asking because occasionally Fresh Roots uses our garden as a meeting place to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to the community. I explained to her that individual gardeners may chose to sell some of their harvest, but it wasn’t the overall mandate of the garden, it wasn’t a market garden, hoping I hadn’t overstepped my bounds.

She replied, ‘Well what about that sunflower head?’ pointing to my prized sunflower that I had just harvested off a tall stalk in my plot. The flower wasn’t very big, and really was only prized due to the fact that I was about two weeks too late harvesting, and it was the only one that hadn’t started to rot already, which meant I had a fair chance in drying it properly. I wanted to keep it mainly for seeds for next year since I had been sort of keeping track of the progression in variance in my sunflowers. I had only planted them the first year I had my plot, and for the two following years I have been watching as the child plants of the seeds which had dropped from the plants the year before were changing over time, which should be of no surprise considering the number of sunflower varieties our garden has and the propensity to cross pollinate. This year’s children were much more varied than last, and two healthy sunchoke plants were produced, both of which bore large bulbous tubers.

I didn’t quite understand what she was asking, and told that offers on specific items, ie that sunflower, might be negotiated with individuals, and then she asked me again how much I wanted for the sunflower head, and I was taken aback; did she really want to buy my sunflower? She continued on. ‘My children and I walk past this garden all the time, and they ask me if they can take home one of the whole flowers. You see, I’m from Poland, and back home you can buy the heads all the time in the markets, but here, no one sells the whole head. We used to buy them all the time when I was a child, and pop the seeds out and eat them raw, I’ve told my children all about them. So when we pass by the garden and see them, they always ask if we can take one, because they want to try one, but I tell them that they aren’t for us to take. This is the first time I have passed by that there has been someone here that I can ask about them. So please,’ she concluded ‘would I be able to offer you something for the sunflower, my children would be so pleased.’

An image of how this woman may have looked as a child in Poland nibbling on a bright yellow sunflower perhaps with her siblings or friends stirred in my mind. Then I pictured her beaming face as she surprised her kids after they got home from school that day showing them the rounds yellow head and patiently demonstrated to them the best way to crack the soft shells open to free the seed inside, all the while telling them about her life as a young child in Poland, a story that would no doubt stick with them every time they saw a sunflower.

I bent down and picked it up for her. ‘Please, just take it’, I said passing it towards her hand, as she protested insisting on paying me something for it. I told her to not worry about it, and to enjoy it. A smile broke wide across her face, and she thanked me about a dozen times as she left the garden. I watched her leave and returned to work, smiling to myself and feeling good for what I had done, not so much because I did something nice for someone, but more because I felt like in some small way, I may have helped a young family preserve a small piece of anecdotal history and cultural tradition that will ultimately affect the way a child will look at food. How could I possibly put a value on that?

Food Stories in the City: Three Question Quickie

Here’s another one from City Studio:

Three Question Quickie

“Would you like to take my quick 3 question food survey?” I asked politely. The answer was almost always yes, in fact only once did someone tell me they couldn’t, oddly a former co-worker of mine from Whole Foods. “Awesome”, I smiled back to them, and asked the first question, a warm up question; “what’s the closest intersection to your house?” It was an easy thing to answer, but a crucial question to ask, one that would really help root the information I wanted to place, the next best thing to a door to door survey, and arguably considerably better since it was far less invasive. It was also a good question because I could get a good read on people by asking it, how comfortable they were, and if I needed to adjust my tone. Some people just jumped to an answer, and reported intersections like Main and 10th a busy node with lots of through traffic keeping me at arm’s length and themselves relatively anonymous. I was hoping that they would go deeper into their neighbourhood, somewhere close to home offering me a finer grain analysis of their neighbourhood. For those who didn’t immediately beat me to the suggestion, I would encourage this and use the example “for instance, 30th and St. Catherine’s”, the closest intersection to my home. Some would get the subtle hint, and move in a street or two, others maintained they lived at Main and Kingsway.

“Excellent”, I said, “now for my second question, what are the three main places that you get your food from?” I tried to keep it benign, careful to not narrow the focus. Some rattled it off like it was nothing. “Super Value, No Frills, sometimes at the Superstore on Rupert, that’s mostly just for big shops though. Oh, and I have a Costco card so I sometimes go there too.” Often people seemed pained by the question. “I really try to shop local’, and listed Kim’s on Fraser ahead of the No Frills and the Super Value. Other’s meticulously listed off many places. “Well for produce, I go to the Farmer’s Market at Trout, but it’s closed now so I guess I’ll have to go to Nat Bailey for the Winter Market. Or I go to Donald’s on the Drive, good produce there too. For cheese, there’s this little shop on Hastings just before the overpass for the railway that I go to, and for bulk, I go to Kea on 10th”. One man claimed to drive out to the Superstore in Coquitlam because they had good deals, another reminisced about being able to buy fresh farm vegetables from a place in Southlands that used to host a farm market, he described it like a tailgate sale, while another explained how you must buzz the door at the Italian shop in Chinatown in order to get in, but it was well worth it. “Can I include restaurants?” one asked, explaining that she rarely cooked for herself at home due to time constraints, but loved the Pad Thai at Mali Thai on Main Street. I listened and found each of the places on the map, drawing straight lines from their residence to the locations. Before their eyes they were beginning to see how the map was being filled in, how many lines and connections to food there were, how much it didn’t matter that the line started almost right on their doorstep.

“Now for the last question, what is your favourite dish and why?” Oddly, this was the stumper, most furrowed their brow and grimaced like they had just received a shot straight to the gut. “My favourite food?” they would ask, I let them interpret it as they would, “wow that’s a hard one”. “Yorkshire pudding, garlic mashed potatoes, roast beef” one slight girl listed without hesitation “love it, it’s like a part of me”. Salmon, in all manner of preparation was popular and usually attached to the descriptors of wild and local, sushi was also popular and for many, almost addictive. “I could honestly eat sushi everyday”. Curries were also hot, rich dahls and fresh naan, so much variety, so much flavour. A friend said lentil soup because his mom, who had passed away a few years ago, used to make it for him. This information I wrote down and made notes for another piece of the food map- I wanted to make one more connection, the store to the food source as well as formulating the best way to create a flavour map at a later time.

“So, that’s It” I informed the participant who often looked remorseful after their last answer. “That’s all you wanted to ask?” they would reply, looking just warmed up and practically salivating at the chance to offer more. “Well if you would like more information on our project, or the chance to participate in food policy, submit to us a story about your relationship to food, take this information piece along with you or write down your email address and we’ll keep you in touch with what we are doing” I said watching the slip of paper moving from the table into their fingertips and transferred into their pocket. 

Rain City Chronicles and the Food Policy team are excited about our upcoming event! Get your tickets fast - this one will sell out http://greenestraincity.eventbrite.com/ 

Rain City Chronicles and the Food Policy team are excited about our upcoming event! Get your tickets fast - this one will sell out http://greenestraincity.eventbrite.com/ 

Food Stories in the City: The Four to Six Breakfast Crowd

We are excited to feature a collection of food stories compiled by Christina Alm from the City Studio program. Here we go….

The Four to Six Breakfast Crowd

The kids all sat quietly on the large oversized and slightly curved couches in the atrium with their caregivers. They had just finished up their play time at the Mt. Pleasant Community Centre and were eating a snack before moving on. The group was well behaved and chatting amongst themselves while eating fruit snacks and carrot sticks, sliced apples and juice boxes. Smaller ones were strapped into their small mobile chariots watching the older ones quietly. The caregivers chatted amongst themselves, exchanging stories and keeping a watchful eye over their charge. I watched them from our table regretful that I didn’t have a specific activity for them, something I could engage them in. I was also reluctant to disturb their settled peace, since they were behaving so well. And yet so eager to capture something from them, there, had to be something I could ask. “I wonder what they all had for breakfast”: I asked out loud, mostly to myself. I really wanted to find out.

Before I knew it, I saw the inkling of restlessness, as one child finished their snack and grew bored inciting another to start walking in a looping pattern in and among the curved benches they sat on. The caregivers broke conversation and offered help to the stragglers, recognizing that it was getting time to finish up, and move on. The peace was now broken, and opportunity presented itself. I picked up our logbook and walked over to the group, identifying one of the caregivers as being more involved in organizing their activities, and more importantly, she seemed approachable. “Excuse me, we are collecting stories about food today and I was wondering if it would be okay if I asked the children what they had for breakfast this morning?” Oh sure, Jamaya would love to tell you what she ate,” she said and looked over at all the kids in the group, their interest already piqued by the stranger that had joined them, and began crowding around, “this nice lady wants to ask you all a question”.

I had never done this before, and as soon as I opened my mouth, I felt as though I was going to get myself into trouble before I even started. “What’s your…” I trailed off and look at the caregiver. “Is it okay if I also ask them for their first names”, I asked rather sheepishly. A name would sound so much better than Female Subject 1, Aged 4-6.”Oh yes”, she said, and from then on, it was game on. I asked each of the children their first name, and what they had for breakfast, one by one. Each one of them was excited, eager to tell me what their favourites were. One claimed repeatedly to have cookies every morning, and his caregiver vehemently denied this scandalous allegation. “His mother feeds him very well, lots of fruits and vegetables” she said in defence. One little girl said “my mom made an egg and bacon breakfast sandwich” to which another one of the women said, “oh I bet she did, she’s always making good stuff like that, I don’t know where she finds the time for all that effort.”

In the time we were there at the community centre, I was able to connect to two groups of children and learned how willing children are to talk about food, and how candidly they share information. I looked at the meagre list of information I was able to collect. “So what are we going to do with the information you collected” Maya asked me. “I don’t know yet”, I said, “but isn’t it important to know what our children are eating for breakfast?”