When the New Westminster Community Poverty Reduction Strategy was being developed, community food insecurity was identified as an issue that needed to be addressed. This was in response to a lack of awareness of food programs in the community; limited access to bulk buying and meal preparation programs; and, limited coordination of food security efforts, including meal programs. In the Five-year Action Plan, action items spoke directly to ways to address these and other related food issues in the community and set the stage for the inclusion of food security in policy and the work of organizations in the community.
Funding was secured by City staff from the Vancouver Foundation to convene local service providers. Two Food Summits were held and the information from these summits informed the development of the New Westminster Food Security Action Plan (FSAP). Shortly after being received by Council for information, representatives from the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society and New Westminster Community Food Action met to develop a Community Partnership Grant application to secure funding to implement the plan. While the grant was not successful, the NWHCS in partnership with New Westminster Community Food Action later received funding from the City to support the implementation. In August 2019, a project coordinator was hired and working in partnership with Fraser Health and the community began to implement the plan.
Key components of the implementation plan for 2019/20 included:
Community and Business Engagement to engage the community beyond the charity model to:
- Increase knowledge of food insecurity in the community (i.e. You are What You Eat community food security exhibit at the Museum, World Food Day Proclamation and World Food Day panel discussion during Homelessness Action Week at the River Market, planning for World Food Day 2020, resource development, etc.).
- Change perceptions around community residents who are food insecure.
Development of Resources as a tool to inspire change:
- The Everybody Needs to Eat food security mythbusters series to dispel common myths about food insecurity and increase awareness of the real cause of food insecurity, inadequate income.
- The No Money, No Food community food security fact sheet that provides an overview of community food security issues while stressing the connection between lack of income and food insecurity and the ways community members can make a difference.
- So, you want to start a food program… step by step guide to food or meal programs in the City for organizations and community members who want to establish, change, or expand a community food program. This has been informed by the City, Fraser Health, non profit food providers and the Community Voices.
The development of an innovative food security program – the Don’t Go Hungry Food Program at the St. Aidan’s Food HUB – that provides an opportunity to access food outside of standard business hours to meet the needs of the working poor. The program provides food on Saturday’s in three neighbourhoods – the West End, Sapperton and Queensborough – and is available to anyone in need. The New West Soccer Club supports the Queensborough site. The Projects and Coalition Coordinator supported a successful UWLM funding application that that will not only support food supplies to March 31, 2021, but also introduce a p/t HUB Coordinator to support long term sustainability.
Establishment of the Community Voices FSAP Working Group to ensure that the voices of those who are food insecure in our community are heard and strategies are developed that will truly address their needs. The working group met monthly and were paid a living wage ($20/hr) to participate. To support their active involvement and understanding of terms regularly used in food security work a Food and Income Glossary was developed. The Community Voices were actively involved in the development of all the above mentioned communication documents.
Facilitation of Community Kitchens in partnership with Family Services of Greater Vancouver to encourage dialogue around food security issues with community residents with lived experience and to engage them in the Community Voices Food Security Working Group:
- Facilitated a 6-week Men’s community kitchen at The Russell (Lookout Housing and Health Society) that saw the attendance of men currently residing in their shelter and supportive housing units, and those attending food programming at Union Gospel Mission.
- Proposed 6-week 50+ community kitchen at Holy Trinity Cathedral that had to be postponed when COVID-19 hit.