Seeding change in the faith-based charity food sector.
CityGate Leadership Forum is a program of City In Focus that helps organizations and change-makers move from good intentions to effective outcomes.We coordinate several projects on Planted, including the Christian Community Food Network, CityGate Community Kitchens, and Lakeview Community & Demonstration Garden.
Our goals for a seed-to-compost food solution include:
- Improved biodiversity and health of urban and rural lands
- Eradication of hunger through fair access to affordable food that is safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate
- Just wages and conditions for all farmers and workers
Strong organizations and collaborations that reduce unneeded duplication and that maximize efficiencies of time and resources for those who provide food, and those who eat it
Participation of churches, Christian agencies, and people of faith in local food policy and food security networks
- Community development initiatives to build participation, knowledge, skills, jobs, and mutually transforming friendships
- Person-centered programs that empower all participants by giving them choice and voice, and by focusing on their strengths.
A movement is only as good as the people behind it. At Planted, our partners rely on people like you to help them grow, prepare, serve and distribute food, as well as build nourishing, equitable communities.
If you’re passionate about helping people and love food, there’s a spot for you.
Community dinners are an experience that may be totally foreign to you. You make dinner, eat dinner and clean up, usually with total strangers…but you don’t leave that way. You make friendships. We talk as we make dinner, we develop even closer connections as we eat together and we part as friends after we’ve all pitched in for the final clean up. The food is fresh and very nutritious, and there is always at least one person there who knows how to “really cook”.
At the end of the night I feel very happy about the people I’ve met, some of whom I might see again, others perhaps not. Some people will come back week after week, others are not as routine. When we talk over dinner, we realize how different our lifestyles are, however, on the other hand we also discover that we all have the same questions about life.
If you have never come out to a small group community dinner like this, I encourage you to come and check it out… and perhaps get involved. Who knows, you may even consider starting a dinner evening in your community. This is a great way to help meet nutritional needs while bringing people into caring relationships. You can contact “City Gate Leadership” if you want more information.
Michelle Hershberger writes, “In our North American society at the turn of the century, where busyness is the curse of the hour, materialism threatens to destroy our families, and homes are sanctuaries instead of centres of community, there is a need to redefine and visit the notion of hospitality.” At the community meal held at Granville Chapel on Saturday, each person was responsible for the preparation of the nutritious meal. As we waited for the chili to cook, and the russet potatoes to bake, we sat down and introduced ourselves. Our introduction was simple; our name, and our role in the meal that we were about to enjoy. As we sat around sharing our thoughts, one woman aptly described the community kitchen as “social meditation”. She went on to express how lovely it was to take the time to prepare a meal together. She voiced how easy it is to get carried away with the busyness of day to day life, and forget to spend time in communion with others over small acts like meal preparation. The community meal gave everyone the opportunity to slow down our busy lives, and practice hospitality to one another. Everyone was the giver, and everyone was the receiver.
Not Merely Food
On June 27th, we met at Crossroads Community Kitchen. Shepard’s pie was on our menu, and the industrial style kitchen was a hub of activity as we prepared.
Those who weren’t in the kitchen enjoyed conversation and helping themselves to an unlimited supply of coffee and hot chocolate. Laughter echoed through the walls of the cozy kitchen table style set-up. Everyone was friendly and very welcoming to each other.
I was able to meet, and chat with many individuals. A cheery Italian man sat down at the piano; as a retired professional performing pianist, he provided background entertainment, as his fingers deftly tickled the ivories. From memory he played song after song.
I also met with another very interesting fellow who was celebrating his 50th birthday. He was also a musician who had a passion for the guitar. His stories about his guitar led to a discussion about his values in life…all very interesting.
As I worked in the kitchen, I met a gentleman from Hong Kong who had just retired and decided that being involved as a volunteer in this community was a meaningful calling. He enjoyed the company, and found fulfillment in being able to help prepare a hearty meal together. He brought a friend who had recently arrived from Taiwan.
As we all sat down, I met a lovely woman, originally from Thunder Bay. To my shock, she was turning 99 years old. She could easily pass for someone 60 years old. She told me that she had only come to this community meal once before, but missed it dearly, so she decided to come back.
At another table, a Canadian born fellow in a wheelchair drove all the way from Surrey to Vancouver to join us for dinner together. He had said that the trek to Vancouver was a highlight of his week.
The salad, buns, Shepard’s pie and fruit salad was awesome, healthy, nourishing, and delicious; however we were all there for more than the food. We all had gathered for a greater purpose. Although we all didn’t work in the kitchen, we all had a role to play in the dinner; from the set-up of the chairs, to setting the table, to clean up. This was a great evening because we all felt good about having a valuable volunteer role to play. We all had a chance to meet new friends and catch up with old ones.
Community Starts in the Kitchen
On the evening of June 4th 2013 I headed down to the community meal at First Baptist Church. As I walked into the kitchen, the aroma of coriander filled the air. There were many volunteers from all walks of life; most of the volunteers were from various churches throughout the city. l met people from a variety of backgrounds and countries including Cuba, Poland and Spain. As we gathered in the industrial style kitchen, we chop lettuce, dice tomatoes, and slice cucumbers, and shared our stories and got to know each other. You could not help but feel a sense of community. As I continued to participate with the food preparation, I began to realize that working together for the benefit of others was a great bonding experience. As a group, we were able to work together on a common goal, and for a few hours, we forgot about the stress of our day to day life. We laughed and had a great time sharing our culinary skills (or lack thereof). Clearly, I was able to witness and experience the camaraderie of working together to create a healthy meal that everyone could enjoy.
Foodsafe Course for Volunteers & Program Participants
If you are a staff, volunteer or participant in a charitable food program, Planted and CityGate Leadership Forum invite you to this subsidized offering of …
FOODSAFE (Level 1)
FOODSAFE (Level 1) is a food handling and work safety course for food service workers, such as cooks, servers and dishwashers. The course covers important food safety information including foodborne illness, storing, preparing, serving, cleaning and sanitizing.
The BC Health Act: Food Premises Regulation states that every operator of a food service establishment, and at least one employee on every shift, must hold a FOODSAFE Level 1 certificate, or certificate from a course recognized as equivalent to FOODSAFE.
This applies to all charity food programs offered to the public.
Date: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Venue: Jacob’s Well, 239 Main Street, Vancouver
Instructor: Sally de la Rue Browne,
Enviro Food Consulting
Cost: $30 – $50 (sliding scale)
Included in the fee is the FOODSAFE Level 1 workbook and certificate processing through Vancouver Coastal Health
Literacy support will be available for taking the test at the end of the course
Light snacks provided, but bring a lunch (there are cafes nearby)
Cheques are payable to CityGate Leadership Forum
To register: contact Karen Giesbrecht by email or at 778-840-4775.
• Space is limited to 25 people/class
• Foodsafe certificates are valid for 5 years
Community Kitchen Launches at First Baptist Church
“I didn’t see this coming,” he says with evident pleasure and subdued astonishment, as he chops almost meditatively on the vegetables we were preparing for the chili. He and his two buddies had been standing in line to get tickets for the Tuesday Night Shelter meal at First Baptist, when Patsy and Tamar came round looking for the people who had signed up previously for the community kitchen we were launching that evening next door in the church’s Hobbit House. They decided on the spot to come check it out.
As we chop away, we talk about how our day had gone. I’m grateful and a little weary to step away from my paperwork and incessant email. He, however, has been watching CNN and he’s concerned. Just what are the North Koreans up to, with this nuclear test they just set off? Turns out that he has a lot of things worrying him, justifiably so, and that he’s man given to pondering the large questions of life. He gives me the impression of a shell-shocked buddhist monk who’s been beaten up and become a little disoriented. It’s clear, though, that the simple acts of getting dinner ready have helped to focus him. He can do this; his hands have memory of doing this.
Later, when we’re eating together what we have made, he leans back slightly in his chair from time to time, chewing slowly, eyes half-closed and a smile flickering in the corners of his mouth. In a world of threat and confusion, he has found an unexpected joy.
CityGate helps First Baptist Shelter expand programming
“You’re eating this week!” I say. “Yep – feeling much better now. This here’s real good!” he says, with an honest-to-God smack of his lips, jabbing his fork at a plate of salad and pasta with meat sauce. Last week his stomach hurt so much, he was afraid that anything he swallowed would just come right back up.
Our conversation turns to foods we like, and then I spring the question I sat down to ask him: has he ever heard of community kitchens, and would he like to come to one we’re starting in two weeks? He eyes light up again. “Sure I know about community kitchens. That’s where everybody brings a little something to add to the pot so they can cook together, right? And them kitchens are important for socialization, too.” Anyone who talks with him for more than a minute doesn’t have to be told that “socialization” is important to him.
“The church will supply the ingredients,” I say. “But we’ll decide together what we want to cook and eat. We can learn new recipes, some kitchen skills, a bit about nutrition – my wife sure says I need to. We’re inviting about a dozen people. It’ll be over at Hobbit House, across the church parking lot. Every second Tuesday starting at 6 instead of 8:30 like the dinner here. We’re gonna try it out for four months. How about it?”
“I’m interested. Definitely.” he says. “But I don’t like it when people say they’re gonna be there and then don’t show. Tuesdays at 6 are tricky for me. Let me think about. Ask me again next week.”
I’m satisfied. He’s one of the most regular overnight guests at First Baptist’s Tuesday Night Meal and Shelter. The trickiness he’s thinking about is his anxiety to be among the first to line up outside the church at 5:30 PM to be sure he gets a ticket for dinner and a mat for the night. In reality, he’s in no danger of getting crowded out. He also hasn’t finished processing the fact that starting next week guests will be able to come right inside at 5:30 for the next three hours as they wait for dinner. While they relax and dry off, they’ll be able to access new referral services and have more space to develop friendships with the volunteers, who come from the church and the community at large. He’ll realize quickly enough that he can eat sooner if he hustles across the parking lot at 6 to the community kitchen.
The community kitchen and the new format for the dinner and shelter are fruit of a full-scale program review that CityGate conducted for the church. Now we’re helping to implement the recommendations.
Filling hungry stomachs or bedding down the homeless has never been the main objective of Shelter. The real point is to offer God’s hospitality to vulnerable neighbours and to receive back from them gifts only they can bring. So the ultimate goal of the community kitchen is to gently equip guests of Shelter to become hosts at the Shelter.
Every person is made in God’s image, to reveal and develop something unique and necessary about who God is, for the good of the world. Yet this is especially true of the poor and the marginalized: Jesus said (in Matthew 25:40) that whatever we do or don’t do to the “the least” we in fact do or don’t do to him. He is found not merely among the poor but in the poor. In this way, Jesus invites us to a life of solidarity and mutual aid with the poor, that we might together enjoy a life of abundance through him.
FBC’s community kitchen will be held at Hobbit House (1025 Nelson St), at 6 PM every second Tuesday between February 12th and May 21st. For more information or to volunteer, contact me here.
FBC’s meal is served in the church hall (969 Burrard St) every Tuesday at 8:30 PM, but at 5:30 guests can come inside. For more information or to volunteer, contact First Baptist’s Shelter coordinator.
Babe in Trough: Food for Thought
‘Tis the season to gather family and friends around our tables! The holidays simply are not holidays without food. This is no accident, no mere cultural or social phenomenon. Historically holidays are literally holy-days, sacred times of ritual intended to strengthen the bonds that give life, rituals that involved feasts and sacrifices.
One of the most important holy days or seasons in many traditional religions and cultures around the globe is the winter solstice (December 21/22 in the northern hemisphere) – “the shortest day of the year,” when the sun appears at noon at its lowest height in the sky.
“The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. …
“Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings …. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia’s slave and master reversals.” (Wikipedia)
Saturnalia, the most popular festival in Ancient Rome, was celebrated December 17th and eventually ran for seven revelrous days, in honour of Saturn, the god of sowing and seeds. Another raucous Roman festival, Brumalia, ran from November 24th to December 24th, in honour of the highly intriguing Bacchus, who was the god of the grape harvest and wine, among much else.
December 25th may or may not be the birthday of Jesus. The Gospels do not name the day or the season of his birth. The Western Church adopted this date for Christmas (the Christ Mass) by the mid-4th century, partly based on when they reckoned Jesus was conceived, but perhaps more as a measure to redirect the pagan energies of the Saturnalia and Brumalia.
In any event, the winter solstice sets up deep resonances across cultures, geographies and time as we reflect during Advent and Christmas on the story of a God who humbled himself to be born a helpless baby and who grew up to declare, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). How fitting, then, that the Christ child should be “found laying in a manger” (Luke 2:16), in a feeding trough!
A typical day…
A typical day for me can include a meal at a soup kitchen and a latte from a neighbourhood café that sources its coffee beans from a farmers cooperative. I eat donated food on paper plates, discussing with my tablemates where to find the best free meals, trying to gain a more tangible understanding of what it’s like to have to worry about when I will next find food. And later I eat around my dining room table in my warm, secure home, with friends and family, roasting, simmering and stewing the produce that we picked up at the neighbourhood farmers markets.
Recently, I had breakfast with Chef David Robertson to hear about how his cooking school, The Dirty Apron, inspires a love of good food. Then I toured the Door is Open to learn about their plans for new community meals in the DTES and to brainstorm about how to create additional food programs on site into which those meal guests could be invited for building skills, deeper relationships, and greater control over the food options available in the neighbourhood. Another day this week, I found a homeless friend who had tucked herself into an alcove in front of a clothing store on Granville Street, and shared with her the remnants of the Tenth Church community lunch that she had been too intimidated to come to.
I am growing increasingly uneasy with the gap between the conversations between good food systems and the charitable programs that exist to support our neighbours on the margins. I don’t want to talk about composting and creation care in one setting, and food for the hungry in another setting. I’m starting to see good nutrition as not just what someone puts into their bodies, but also where that food came from, how it was prepared, and who it was enjoyed with. Through Planted, we want to inspire each other to move along the continuum of responses to food insecurity, ensuring everyone in our communities can dine well.
What Can Crop Up After A Free Meal Program Ends?
Last week I met with two women from a church on Vancouver’s west side who are struggling with an all-too-common dilemma. This past September, lack of funding forced them to end a free weekly community lunch they had been operating for more than a decade.
This was quite a loss to their 60 regulars – primarily low-income seniors and disabled persons living in nearby apartments, but also a few homeless fellows who call Kitsilano home and some residents of the Downtown Eastside who spend their days avoiding the ‘hood. They had worked so hard and so well to make the meal a welcoming space for friendships to form that nearly half their dozen volunteers got involved as a result of first being guests at the meal.
The women I met with recognize that their challenges aren’t likely to go away. The several congregations who were contributing money are tiny, and most of the volunteers they can muster are just as elderly as the meal guests. There is more competition for grants, which are often as not inaccessible to faith-based organizations. Corporate food donations are drying up.
But these two women are determined to do what they can with what they have at hand to restore a greater measure of food security for their vulnerable friends. The solution we came up with won’t yield food for all 60 former guests. But it does take advantage of the resources and strengths of the churches, volunteers, and the guests themselves.
Folks involved with the meal had already expressed interest in starting a community garden on the host church’s property. There is space for a garden large enough to supply much of the produce needed for a community kitchen program for ten to twenty people. Community kitchens bring neighbours together to prepare and share a meal with each other, with enough left over for all to take home at least one additional serving. Beyond produce from the garden, the grocery bill can be further offset by asking for a $1 dollar contribution from those able to give it – an affordable price for two meals, even for most pensioners. Just as importantly, the garden and kitchen program will nourish a sense of personal capability and communal capacity. Who knows what other dividends will accrue when the vulnerable recognize they have gifts and talents to lend to the common good?