Crossroads Community Meal: Friends Making Food

The way we experience a meal matters — whether we are involved in the preparation process, have to eat alone, or are sharing the meal with others.

Our partner Crossroads Community Meal, recently restructured its program in order to address these important elements of sharing a meal. With an emphasis on enjoyment, community building, empowerment and sustainability, Crossroads is moving away from a traditional charitable model. The new approach gives people a chance to work and eat together as peers.

Simeon Pang, community co-coordinator at Crossroads, explains what that exactly means.

“We want to move away from a model where we provide food and there are other people that receive food. Now we come together, prepare a meal and share the 4-5 hours together doing something in which everyone can take part in, so that they can feel needed and wanted.”

The “we” in Simeon’s statement are people like Lianne, Iler, Xena, and her daughter Tamara. Most of them have been coming to Crossroads dinners for years, and take pride in contributing. Together they whip up delicious meals like “Mac and Cheese Deluxe” (the “deluxe” part being ham, but there’s always a vegetarian and vegan option as well).

Graeme, another regular, usually sets the tables. For him, he says, coming to Crossroads’ dinner on a Thursday night, means a lot.

“I am really grateful that we all have this place. The meal is really good, nourishing. And I like helping out.”

If you would like to learn more about the wonderful people that make Crossroads Thursday dinner program thrive, please watch our short 3-minute video.

Luke Brocki: How To Make A Local Biz Salad

What does it take to produce a 100% local salad? And how can businesses work together to create a healthy local economy?

These are some of the questions, Vancouver-based journalist Luke Brocki answers in his article exploring the workings and local impact of 100% local business relationships in Vancouver.

Besides tricycle couriers, eateries, and supermarkets, our partner Mission Possible is mentioned as one of the organizations committed to creating a healthy local economy. Mission Possible provides the labour force for North America’s first rooftop vertical farm located on top of a parking garage at Richards and Duns­muir.

Read more here:

It’s a typically cold and rainy December morning on a rooftop in downtown Vancouver. The revolving restaurant atop the Harbour Centre skyscraper peeks above some closer buildings to the north, the pious spire of the Holy Rosary Cathedral marks south. Steps away, the concrete roof supports a massive greenhouse filled with plants and machines making noise. This is our next stop on an exploration of the power of local business relationships.

“Most of what we’re trying to do is knock California product off the retail shelves,” says Donovan Woollard. He arrived by bicycle, calls himself a social justice advocate and wears blue and yellow plaid, jeans and rain boots. He’s a strategic advisor at Alterrus Systems Inc. and the man behind the business development strategy at Local Garden, the brand that turned the top tier of a city-owned parkade into a sophisticated hydroponic food farm.

“The City of Vancouver is our landlord,” says Woollard when pressed about recent criticism city officials faced for enabling the project. “Most of this parkade sits empty most days of the week. It’s new revenue for the city.”

Local Garden rents the 5,800-square-foot space — 22 parking stalls’ worth — for $2,400 a month. Given our mayor’s green ambitions, the local food proposal was an easy sell to City Hall. A bigger challenge was finding $2 million to finance the project, the company’s first installation after years of research and development.

“Because this is our first commercial install, it’s seen as a slightly higher risk loan,” Woollard says. Alterrus approached a number of different lenders for construction and operational loans. In the end, Vancity’s Community Capital team agreed to roll the dice. Woollard says Local Garden hopes to pay the investment back within five years.

Picking and packing

Inside the greenhouse, a small crew of workers is picking and packing leafy greens in the undergrowth of a space age jungle. Kale, arugula, basil and various lettuces sit in clusters in plastic trays stacked 12-high, the resulting towers suspended from a massive conveyor on a serpentine track whose path delivers bursts of heat, light, water and organic nutrients. Local humanitarian agency Mission Possible provides the labour force: half a dozen residents from the neighbouring Downtown Eastside.

“Most of the folks on site here are going through their work readiness training program, coming back into the workforce after being out due to any number of different life challenges,” Woollard says.

Read the full article at thetyee.ca.

Closing the Food Gap

I was inspired to read more of Mark Winne when I heard him quoted as saying, “the rich get local and organic, and the poor get diabetes.” How else could one so succinctly and arrestingly summarize of the widening gap between the good food available and the challenges that poverty creates.

In “Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in a Land of Plenty,” Winne eloquently shows how different components of our food system – food banks, gardens, and farmers markets, community supported agriculture, the presence or absence of grocery stores in a neighbourhood, and public policy – affect those who are nutritionally vulnerable. Winne identifies short-term solutions to food insecurity, while pointing to ways of addressing the deeper issue, poverty.

Winne also introduces his readers to some of the community leaders who are creating and sustaining innovative programs that get good food onto the tables of their hungry neighbours. Such people put others before themselves, encourage people to help themselves, keep the big picture of a better community in mind, attended to the little details, and are not afraid to challenge the system. Look around the rest of the Planted site to meet a few people who are doing all this, and doing it deliciously.

Although it is never kind to give away how a story ends, the last few lines of “Closing the Food Gap” beautifully explain why we need to work together:

“Because the food system is so diverse and complex, it has many interconnected parts, none of which can be ignored for too long before the system falls out of balance. Focus too intently on hunger, and you’ll lose sight of its cause. Devote yourself too narrowly to agriculture, and you’ll forget about the consumer. Care too much about your own food, and you’ll forsake food justice. There are larger purposes in life when all our interests come together. Closing the food gap is one of them.”

Meet Soulkitchen’s Louise

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Congratulations to our partner Soulkitchen for their latest “gig” with the More Than A Roof Housing Society.

For a little more than two months now Hännes and Louise Tischhauser, the bright minds behind Soulkitchen, have been cooking for the many residents at More Than A Roof facilities.

Whipping up delicious meals at the housing society’s new community kitchen, Hännes and Louise have been putting the years of experience they’ve gathered running a soup kitchen in Perth, Australia to good use.

We sat down with Louise and she gave us a glimpse behind the scenes of Soulkitchen’s latest project, along with her vision of the ideal food program.

Planted: How does a typical dinner for More Than A Roof’s residents look like?

Louise: It’s usually about a hundred people per sitting and Hännes goes in in the afternoon, and one of the first things he does is he finds residents and tries to motivate them to help him with the cooking. It’s really all about that morphing of “them and us”. We want to build relationships between the people we serve and us.

P: What’s a typical dish you serve at one of these community meals?

L: Hännes is famous for soups, really, really nice soups. You can make a beautiful, healthy, wonderful soup for someone, and who doesn’t like that? We try to make our food healthy, but also make it an enjoyable experience, so if there’s a bit of extra cream in a meal, you know, that’s okay [laughs]. We aim for the happy medium.

P: What is your role at these dinners?

L: I’m not much in the kitchen. I really spend most of my time sitting with people and talking to them, because I think this is really what this is all about.

You know, when I went to the More Than A Roof dinner a couple of nights ago, a woman I talked to the last time just tapped me on the shoulder, and we just caught up, and I thought “that’s what I want”. Get to know the tenants and know where they’re at and gain their trust.

I think that’s when you build a community, when you care about people’s families and what is going in their life, you develop relationships and friendships. What we want to accomplish is get away from that model where people just stand in a line and are handed out food, and there is no personal interaction at all.

P: Where would you like to see Soulkitchen’s work go in the future?

L: We cook for all the More Than A Roof residents, and for the Vogue House Dinners, and we are trying to mentor young people in what we’re doing, so that if we can’t do this anymore, they can take over. We would love to expand and cook for even more programs, maybe at this kitchen or somewhere else.

I think our bigger picture vision is that at some point in the future, we are able to host dinners everybody can take part in. It doesn’t matter who you are and what your background is, whether you live in the Downtown Eastside, or somewhere else in Vancouver, you know, you might be poor, or middle-class, it doesn’t matter. I think that would really break down a lot of barriers.

Eat For a Week On a $26 Budget

Imagine you had only $26 to spend on food each week. What kind of groceries would you buy? What indulgences would you have to give up? What if you ran out of money halfway through the week? Would such a limited budget for food influence your social life?

“$26 is pretty much my weekly budget for visits to the coffee shop,” says Surrey Urban Mission’s Executive Director Jonquil Hallgate, who at the moment is asking herself many of the above questions as she is getting ready for the Welfare Food Challenge her organization is planning for the second week of January.

The mission’s challenge is inspired by the Welfare Food Challenge put on by the poverty advocacy group Raise the Rates in October of last year.

Like Raise the Rates, Surrey Urban Mission decided to organize the 7-day-challenge to raise awareness for poverty and food security, but also to give people a chance to experience what it is like to walk in the shoes of the many Canadians on welfare, who have to get by on a weekly food budget of $26.

Jonquil believes for most participants of the mission’s Welfare Food Challenge, experiencing the hardships of poverty will be a first.

“Many of us have never experienced poverty and not having enough to eat, which is a good thing of course, but at the same time, when we talk about poverty and food security, we are not talking from a standpoint of knowledge.”

In addition to not exceeding the $26 food budget, some other guidelines are in place:

Pooling money with other participants is not allowed.
Participants should refrain from eating out, or ordering take-out food for the duration of the challenge.
Participants can’t eat food they already have at home (food that has been purchased prior to the start of the challenge).
Participants will be asked not to accept any kind of charity or other food not coming out of their $26 dollar budget.

Jonquil explains that the last rule was put into place keeping in mind that emergency food programs such as food banks and soup kitchens, were never meant to become Canada’s default response to hunger and malnutrition – and a means of survival for Canadians struggling with poverty these days.

“It’s absolutely not possible to nourish yourself in healthy ways on that kind of money,” Jonquil says. “So people either have to rely on food banks and meal programs, or they go hungry. I think it really shouldn’t be that way.”

Interested in participating?

Ready to raise awareness for hunger, poverty and food security issues in your community? Or maybe you just want to challenge yourself and find out if you could manage to live on $26 for food a week?

Join the Surrey Urban Mission’s Welfare Food Challenge by signing up for your own profile page.

Your profile page will allow you to upload a summary explaining why you want to take part in the challenge. Your page will also provide you with an opportunity to maintain a blog detailing your experience.

Here are some other options how you can take action and push local politicians to tackle poverty in BC.

For any questions regarding the Welfare Food Challenge, please contact Jonquil Hallgate at sums@telus.net.

For any questions regarding your profile page, please send an email to community@plantednetwork.ca.