Roundtable 5: Food for All


Food is a connecting point between people: growing, buying, selling, cooking, making, sharing and dining together. It connects us to our familial and cultural traditions and is the foundation of health and well-being.

  • What do robust, resilient, and accessible food systems look like?
  • How do we deal with issues such as affordability and food waste?
  • What can be done at the local level to address global stresses such as climate change, loss of agricultural land, soil degradation, and distant and attenuated food supply chains?
  • The connection is often made between food and biodiversity, health, local economic development, education, social inclusion and community. What do these connections look like in Vancouver and how can they be strengthened?

Roundtable Discussion

The table had 9 participants from community and private sector organizations with a focus on food security plus table lead Ian Marcuse and notetaker Jenna Aujla.

The discussion focused on a number of initiatives ranging from the use of food and gardening as a way to teach kids leadership skills, to high tech approaches that support low-emission urban agriculture. One theme that ran throughout the discussion was how food and culture connect with the wider ecological, economic, and cultural systems that include food production, preparation, and consumption.

The roundtable looked at ways to make sure that food industry practices are ethical, respectful, and involve community so that future generations of strong food practice can be created. There was discussion of inner city farms creating good green jobs and the practice of rewilding – bringing back traditional wild areas within an urban zone. More than simply promoting biological diversity, rewilding is a reconciliation practice that acknowledges our responsibility to care for unceded Indigenous land. Increasing the range of urban agricultural investments is important, but the concept needs to be broadened to include a deeper connection to the land and a recognition of the need to ensure access by the most vulnerable to food.

The food items weren’t good enough for the rest of us, but good enough for them (lower income).

Shared by Zarah Esmail quoting a youth resident at Eva’s Phoenix (a youth shelter in Toronto)

Connections between poverty, economic security, labour rights (in this context highlighting agricultural labour), food waste, climate change, the rural-urban shift, food skills, and health and nutrition were discussed. The benefits of an overall shift from food systems as consumer-based, to ones with more cultural connections were highlighted, such as the reintroduction of Indigenous foods into hospitals in Haida Gwai, neighbourhood food projects bringing communities together, and youth skills development in food gardening and production.

Key Findings

  • Need to use land in a meaningful way enabling people to build a deeper connection to the land, whether growing food or simply being in pleasant green space. Land use that supports healthy ecology and global warming mitigation and more intensive food growing.
  • Resiliency: for food planning + low income households to address high cost of living. Need for more dignified food programming that narrows the gap in access to quality, healthy, culturally appropriate food.
  • Recognize the social connection of food: more opportunities to eat together within community settings can address issues of social isolation. Food production and connection between housing, space availability, and food (zoning).
  • Addressing food insecurity is an income issue and needs to be addressed through poverty reduction. Community food sector can do more anti-poverty work and community organizing work (leadership development, food justice, advocacy and policy work) with increased resources beyond support for basic food access/food security type programming.
  • Incorporate food production with a food reconciliation strategy that includes relationship building or generally create more opportunities for social connection and inclusion.
  • Increase intergenerational Interaction: senior centres and students that address isolation and loneliness issues.
  • Awareness of where food comes from builds responsibility that ensures social and environmental justice.
  • Place-based models – local programming has the largest impact. It takes a village to feed a village.
  • Need for education around safe food e.g. food allergy / adversities.
  • Cultural discrimination around food. We need to support more cultural learning and sharing around food. We all need to be a part of food systems change, not just foodies. One change is ensuring that cultural foods are more available and valued.
  • Renaturalization of urban spaces to be inclusive of Indigenous food systems. Stronger focus on supporting Indigenous food systems and development of such frameworks. How can naturalized or rewilded spaces benefit food access and Indigenous food systems? This is more than just food access. It is about strengthening our connection to land/nature (in the city).
Rewilding in Vancouver. Photo by Ian Marcuse


  • Provide funding for food programming in social service sector to support integrated and cross sectoral approaches that facilitate general health and well-being, and are embedded within community social systems of connections, inclusion, learning, etc. (place based).
  • Focus on local neighbourhood based infrastructure
    • food programming and spaces
    • leadership training + education
    • integrated neighbourhood food hubs
    • community food programmers tasked to facilitate urban agriculture initiatives.
  • Apply Indigenous food sovereignty principles (BC Indigenous Food Sovereignty Working Group) and values within the city via such activities as rewilding, cultural sharing, and access to traditional foods.
  • Increase range of urban agricultural investments that are inclusive of wild areas and broaden to include deeper connections to the land while recognizing access to food is for most vulnerable. Increase the number of community commons or shared growing areas.
  • Support neighbourhood food networks with increased physical assets and human capacity to scale up food access, food skills, community engagement, and cultural sharing within place based frameworks.
  • Incorporate food considerations into disaster planning, especially for vulnerable people (e.g. women, children, elders) who may need extra support or access.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty Principles


Sacredness in terms of the 4 principles of the land. A responsibility to nurture healthy, interdependent relationships with the land, plants and animals that provide us with our food.


An action that is ultimately based on the day to day practice of maintaining our traditional food harvesting strategies and practices for the benefit of present and future generations. A cultural strategy that must be practiced at all of the individual, family, and community levels.


The ability to respond to our own needs for safe, healthy, culturally adapted Indigenous foods – the ability to make decisions over the amount and quality of food we hunt, fish, gather, grow, and eat. Freedom from dependence on grocery stores or corporately controlled food production and distribution in market economies.


A strategy for influencing provincial, national, and international policies that are negatively impacting traditional land and food systems.

From the BC Indigenous Food Sovereignty Working Group.

Related Initiatives

Grandview Woodland Food Connection is a grassroots umbrella food program run out of Britannia Community Centre. Programming includes Wild Minds, empowering youth to learn about ecology, basic food skills, environmentalism, and connection to the land; renaturalising the Strathcona Cottonwood Gardens; summer gardening program with at risk/marginal young people affected by racism and colonialism.

The BLEND Program at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House focused on food and social inclusion. It brought together immigrant youth each week to learn recipes, share food from their countries, and improve food literacy. The program helped launch intergenerational community dinners in South Vancouver.

Friendship Catering Events was developed as a social enterprise providing dinner and a morning snack for the largest temporary shelter in Vancouver. With that as a platform it now offers catering beyond the organization and a space for people to develop skills and connections.

Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House provides training workshops to engage community members in learning about traditional plants and medicines and how we have been impacted with interference in traditional foods. This encompasses heightening the visibility of Indigenous technology, harmony, unity, sustainability, and practicing generosity and promoting the 4 Principles of Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks support 15 food security organizations developing neighbourhood-specific food programming to meet the social, cultural, and economic needs of communities across Vancouver. Operating as a critical community of practice, they use food to bring people together andv create a culture of change.

WSP is developing Canada’s first net zero vertical farm. It is still a research project, but has the potential to address some of the issues around climate change, rural-urban shift, and concerns about food security, getting fresh foods into cities, closer to cities. There is still limited government support for urban agriculture, but it needs to be part of the discussion.

Grandview-Woodland Native Plant Garden. Photo by Lung Liu

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