There is an emerging movement in Vancouver surrounding food security, demonstrated in the influx of community gardens surfacing at various parks and streets. At the same time, there exists a parallel trend of an increasing flow of immigrants, refugees, migrants, and migrant workers. We see great potential in merging these two movements to create something positive and of value that addresses social justice and environmental sustainability. In examining the current dynamics and make ups of community gardens, we find that they are composed of mostly middle class people, of predominantly Caucasian background, and are not representative of the population of Vancouver in actuality. This is a problem, and there needs to be a conscious effort made to alleviate inequalities in this sector. In order for food security to serve its purpose in providing healthy, ethical, and attainable food, it needs to be inclusive, addressing the multicultural nature of Vancouver.
Food is our common source of energy. Its power is rooted in the foundations of its origin, which can be identified cross-culturally as a source of pleasure and health to be shared. Vancouver is a beautiful city, however, if one looks beyond the vast landscapes marked by the North Shore Mountains and the hydrological basin of the Fraser River, there exists streets and alleyways of infinite human connections, disconnections, relations and dislocations. The city hosts one of the largest immigrant demographics in the world – and this sector is embarking on further rapid growth in the near future. Viewing Vancouver through this lens, we see a space of multi-cultural and ethnic celebration challenged by the social and economic ramifications that outbreak as a result of adjustment to such changes. This is where the role of community integration comes in as a tool to facilitate ease in transition by acknowledging and embracing the commonality that we all have in food. People are thinking more about food beyond just our culinary choices. Food is a political act and in this way, capable of empowering people to make ethical choices, and choices benefiting our future. Food is a reflection of our values, as well as our physicals and spiritual needs.
Amongst concerns of housing and education, there is an increasing awareness on environmental sustainability, triggering a movement, within the last decade, towards building a “greener city”. There are many ways city folks can grow towards a more sustainable lifestyle, in which all levels of decision-making in the city play a part in determining how these changes take effect. We believe that the transition toward a more vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable community starts with a sense of belonging. The more we feel included and connected to one another, the more empowered we are in making a difference in our community by taking care of what we belong to. Taking part of what lies beyond our private yards and nuclear social relations is a chance to build more cohesive and inclusive communities, which extends our creativity, capability and capacity to thrive as urban citizens.
A major recent concern is the level of food security we currently hold in Vancouver. Food security is about the ability to access sufficient, safe, ethical and nutritious foods – knowing that our city has the capacity to meet the basic food needs of its people. Oil-based resources, from synthetic fertilizers to herbicides and machine-run farms are all unsustainable and environmentally detrimental practices that drive our conventional mass-produced food system. Decreasing our reliance on imported produce, in any scale, is beneficial to our modern lives. Yet, the increasingly effervescent urban agriculture can’t neglect various social and economic conditions of people living in the cities. Financial resources shouldn’t restrict one from accessing land and tools needed to garden. Urban gardening possesses great potential to improve food security by creating a space of inclusive participation from diverse communities.
These articles are geared by our curiosity about the dynamics of social integration of low-income, immigrant, new-comers, and First Nations in Vancouver, with an objective to portray the potential of Food Security programs, such as community gardens, community kitchens, local markets, healthy eating courses, artisanal food caning, etc. to enhance social integration, improving peoples’ sense of belonging and empowerment in the city. Our ultimate goal is to promote the value of building earnest communities rooted in urban gardens by showcasing current Community Gardens and projects, as well as giving some insight of potential grounds to broaden these into the practice of Collective Gardening for example. Community Gardens and other Food Security Programs can be a stage for social change, from Montreal to the Vancouver East Side, the links above will take you to some examples of Growing Community Roots.