Addressing community needs in the food system

Addressing community needs in the food system

To advance goals important to our surrounding communities, UBC’s Partnership Recognition and Exploration (PRE) fund has awarded 47 community-university initiatives.

Three Faculty of Land and Food Systems initiatives received funds of up to $1500 through PRE to work with these community partners: Watari Counselling and Support Services; ARC Arts Roots and Culture Community Society; and, FarmFolk CityFolk Society.

Each partner is addressing a unique need in the B.C. food system.

Tabitha Robin Martens

Stephanie Lim, Community Relations Coordinator, Faculty of Land and Food Systems

Watari Counselling and Support Services

Watari supports people experiencing marginalization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the surrounding communities, through youth and community programs, and through counselling.

The new UBC project builds on an existing collaboration: Watari staff members will continue mentoring UBC students around the challenges and opportunities of working in contexts of high adversity and in turn, Watari participants learn about nutrition and meal planning. This new project supports Watari in creating early childhood nutrition resources for parents with precarious immigration status.

“Watari works with community members facing multiple barriers to health, safety, and belonging,” says project lead Stephanie Lim, Community Relations Coordinator in land and food systems.

“The programs connect participants with resources and supports, and this work is rooted in principles of justice, and relationships of trust. I deeply appreciate Watari’s willingness to mentor our students around both skills and values, and it’s great that LFS students are able to contribute to Watari’s goals in return.”

Since 2021, Watari has partnered with students in UBC’s Food, Nutrition and Health 473 course (Applied Public Health Nutrition). To date, students have developed menu plans for Watari’s meal programs serving residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and developed guidelines for nutritional and culturally appropriate emergency food kits for Watari’s membership (3-day kits tailored for seniors, pregnant people, children, and others).

UBC students have learned to advance Watari’s organizational philosophy, which includes the provision of trauma-informed services, recognition of individuals’ innate capabilities and desire for wellness, and the rights of individuals to make informed choices.

Tabitha Robin Martens

Camil Dumont, Education Manager, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) at UBC Farm

ARC Arts Roots and Culture Community Society – Freedom Farm School

Freedom Farm School is a program run through ARC Arts Roots and Culture Community Society. It supports Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) elementary-aged youth in developing meaningful relationships with the land, as colonization and systemic racism in the food system have resulted in BIPOC communities lacking equitable access to food. This project enables youth to visit UBC Farm at the Vancouver campus, to learn skills related to growing food, foraging, crafting natural plant medicines, survival skills, fire tending, cooking and environmental stewardship.

Leading this project is Camil Dumont, Education Manager, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) at UBC Farm.

“The group of parent volunteers and instructors at ARC are working to better the education options for kids in our community. Many learners benefit from instructional models and options that are outside the dominant educational K-12 paradigm,” says Dumont.

“ARC intentionally centres Black and Indigenous knowledge and experience in its pedagogical approach. It is a project of active community building, love, respect and equity. Providing a degree of support in partnership through the CSFS and land/infrastructure access for the betterment of this project is a great privilege. We are lucky to share our space with these folks.”

Youth will have the chance to play and explore the land, and recognize it as a place of safety and a place where they belong.

Freedom Farm School helps offers safe and inclusive access to farmlands and forests. Dumont hopes to provide access to Indigenous wisdoms regarding the land, and provide interactive education about other relevant African and agricultural practices as a means of developing a sense of cultural pride.

Solveig Hanson, former Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) at UBC Farm

FarmFolk CityFolk Society

This project was led by Solveig Hanson, former Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UBC Farm’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

Through her work with the Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement Project (CANOVI), Hanson partnered with FarmFolk CityFolk Society to promote and support farmers in organic vegetable seed production, a sector still in its infancy in B.C.

“Over the life of the 5-year project, CANOVI engaged over 150 Canadian organic farmers in trialling carrot, pepper, radicchio, and rutabaga varieties on their farms,” says Hanson.

“Farmers tell us that they benefit from seeing how varieties do in their particular conditions, comparing their observations with aggregated trial results, and being part of a grower network interested in seed security and seed sovereignty.”

CANOVI and FarmFolk CityFolk want to create a resilient organic seed sector serving the needs of B.C. organic vegetable farmers and seed growers. Funding through PRE promoted their work and supported farmers by engaging the public through programs and events, including tasting trials where the flavour of different varieties were rated.

Data gathered through public tasting events helps to inform future plant breeding projects and builds a knowledge base around consumer preference for vegetables varieties.

Read about all funded projects in 2022 by visiting UBC’s Office of Community Engagement.