As we explore who is involved in providing nutritious food in ways that foster community and build on the strengths of the vulnerable, let us introduce you to…
Trixie Ling is passionate about food, hospitality and building community by bringing people around a table to eat together, learn from each other, share stories and life. She believes that good food can nourish our body, mind and spirit, and deepen our relationships with each other. Trixie lives out her beliefs through her work as a Community Connections Coordinator in East Vancouver by creating welcoming spaces with neighbours through community night dinners and East Van Talks. She has a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Simon Fraser University and is interested in policy, advocacy and community engagement around food justice, mental health and poverty issues.
What got you interested in sustainable food?
My interest in sustainable food grew as I volunteered at Vancouver Farmers Markets, cooked at community meals, and helped to grow vegetables on a sustainable farm. As I learn how to grow my own garden, I see the intimate connections between land, local food and empowering people to feed each other. One example of this connection is our church garden, the Garden of Eatin’. Our vegetables are used for our annual Harvest Feast in the fall where we make pots of delicious vegetarian soups and homemade bread. We invite neighbors to help us harvest, make soup, learn new recipes and eat together – there is a sense of pride in gaining new knowledge and skills to cook and enjoy good food with each other.
I first went to the community dinner at the First Christian Reformed Church in East Vancouver about five years ago and started volunteering because I love to cook with other people and wanted to get to know more people in our church and neighborhood. The food is set up as a buffet family-style meal, and it surprised me how much people love getting their own food (instead of being served), choosing how much or little they want. Another surprise was seeing how much people appreciated our vegetarian meals and wanted the recipes! We always make fresh vegetarian meals to support sustainably grown food and show people different ways of nourishing our bodies without meat. We are committed to being environmentally responsible with our practices of recycling, composting food scraps, and using real dishes. Since we do not have a dishwasher in the kitchen, everyone who eats washes their own dishes, which encourages people to stay around after eating and further connect with each other.
Through your work, what changed in how you see the relationships between food, poverty, and community?
Working as a Community Connections Coordinator, I have seen many community members who go from just eating to coming regularly to set up, cook and clean after dinner. We do not have a formalized volunteer orientation or process, instead we build relationships and trust with people to get involved, take ownership, and be a part of our extended family.
Through our weekly dinner, we offer food and friendships to people in the neighbourhood, and over time we get to know each other enough to celebrate milestones, including birthdays and baby showers. Some of our community members are low-income, at risk of homelessness, or face other challenges like poor mental health, addictions and poverty. Eating together around a table, listening to each other’s stories can break down negative stereotypes and inequalities, and help us to better understand the complex issues of poverty and depths of loneliness. I have learned that poverty is not only a lack of income and shelter, but on a deeper level poverty is a lack of good relationships and sense of belonging. Community members who have become regular volunteers have a strong connection with people and a sense of place in East Van. Community kitchens and communal meals are important in addressing poverty and providing what we all need as humans to flourish: food, dignity, relationships and community.
What do you need to further your bigger goals for your neighbourhood?
I have experienced the power of bringing people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs around a table to share food, stories and life together in a welcoming space. I would love to use food as a way to create more open spaces and opportunities to have dialogues around multiculturalism and better understanding of different faiths and religions in the community. This summer there will be a new refugee Welcome Centre run by ISS of BC, located right beside our church and I hope to eat with our refugee neighbours (including many Syrian refugees) and build relationships with them and learn about their cultures, stories and way of life.
I also hope to expand our learning opportunities through East Van Talks by inviting more community members from all different ages and walks of life to share their ideas, knowledge and passions. I want to encourage people in other communities to develop their own version of East Van Talks and provide creative opportunities and partnerships to learn from each other and inspire change in the community.
Contact Trixie Ling at firstname.lastname@example.org