Food, race and the ethnic aisle

This is a special to the GNH Blog by Rebecca Cuttler.
Originally posted at Vancouver Observer.

Kevin Huang at the Gordon Neighbourhood House event, “What’s up with the Ethnic Aisle?” Photo by Matt Schroeter.

It is, perhaps, a cliche to say that food brings people together. A good meal, shared amongst friends or strangers, can provide an ideal starting place for dialogue, learning and connection. Food is a language we all speak.

Yet food can also be fraught with its own complexities. Consider, for instance, the “ethnic aisle”. In grocery stores across Vancouver, staples from non-European countries are often grouped together in a jumble of sauces, spices and dried goods segregated into their own area.

This phenomenon was the starting point for a recent event at the recently closed Heartwood Cafe entitled “What’s up with the ethnic aisle?” Hosted by Gordon Neighbourhood House, the discussion followed on an earlier panel at the May 2016 Vancouver Food Summit, “Why is the food movement so white?”

Our world is currently experiencing a time when race, ethnicity and culture are at the forefront of many people’s minds. Police killings in the United States and the rise of Black Lives Matter have sparked an urgent dialogue about systemic racism.

Xenophobia in North America and Europe has shaped the current political landscape, with potentially huge implications. These topics are complex and extend far beyond food.

However, it turns out that what we put on our plates, and how we buy it, bring up their own set of important challenges, many of which affect Vancouver directly.

I was fortunate to be able to interview two of the event panelists, indigenous law specialist and former Vancouver Park Board member Niki Sharma, and Chinese-Canadian youth organizer and Executive Director of the hua foundation Kevin Huang.

The panel at the Vancouver Food Summit was entitled “Why is the food movement so white?” Do you think it’s true that the food movement is white?

Niki: There are a lot of people of colour that participate in local food production. I believe the real question is: are the voices of these people represented in the organizations claiming to represent the local food movement?

Kevin: In a local food systemic context contained to the Lower Mainland, yes. While we are often asked to choose organic kale as a way of supporting local farmers and community agriculture, I think it’s just as important to include organic bok choi in these selections as a means of providing culturally appropriate food choices.

Niki Sharma at the Gordon Neighbourhood House event, “What’s up with the Ethnic Aisle?”. Photo by Matt Schroeter.

 

How much does the problem have to do with how we define “food movement”? Are there other food movements out there besides organic food, locavorism and farmer’s markets?

Kevin: I don’t see it as a problem of how we define “food movement” as much as questioning who is this movement for, who it is serving, who is not at the table, and who are we excluding? Vancouver’s demographic is diverse and the food movement should reflect that.

The interesting things about Farmer’s Market-style direct sales is that they are also quite prevalent in most places around the world: wet markets, morning markets, you name it. Perhaps increasing the availability of culturally appropriate food items, increasing accessibility, and advancing our cultural competency to work interculturally would fill this engagement gap.


There is also the opportunity for us to expand or even redefine Vancouver’s “Food Movement”. We are missing out on recognizing and celebrating individuals acts such as grandmas and grandpas growing their own food in their backyards or even parents teaching their kids in the privacy of their own home how they should not waste food and to compost.

Niki: I spoke about my father during the panel at the Vancouver Food Summit. He has been collecting seeds and growing food for most of his life. He has a deep knowledge of growing food that he shared with us.

In many ways he is a local food champion, but I am sure he would not know why he was called that. This speaks to the disconnect of the movement to include stories of those with deep knowledge about local food from many different backgrounds. Ultimately, I believe the “food movement” cannot be successful if it chooses to define itself through disconnected and unrepresentative boardrooms.

In terms of other movements, food justices needs to be part of every movement or ultimately it just becomes an club that only few can participate in.

How much of BC’s food system – especially when it comes to things like agricultural production, importing and distribution – is dependent on the work of immigrants and migrant workers?

Niki: I would like to know these statistics. Between migrant workers, Chinese Canadian and South Asian farmers, I would expect this numbers to be high.

Kevin: With the exception of First Nations, acknowledgement that we are all immigrants is important. From hua foundation’s area of work, it is deeply concerning that there are only three academic studies on the Chinese Food Distribution system, considering how large the system is locally.

The Chinese once produced up to 90% of British Columbia’s vegetables before racist policy pushed them out. Similar to how there is little recognition on Chinese contributions, we rarely acknowledge the “immigrants” and migrant workers that continue to produce our food locally.

What’s up with the “ethnic aisle”?

Niki: I think we need to examine the word “ethnic” and think about what we mean when we say it. Canadians of colour will tell you that the ethnic aisle is where all the food from non-white countries is found. Despite being part of Canada for generations – certain backgrounds are considered more Canadian than others. For example, Chinese people migrated here before B.C. was a province. At what point does a culture or food stop being labelled “ethnic” in Canada?

Kevin: From a business logistics point of view, it is where you put all the “exotic” foods that your business traditionally doesn’t import/buy. For mainstream, non-visible-minorities it is where non-staple items can be found.

The sociological issue with the “ethnic aisle” is that it reinforces the “othering” of people of colour and “diverse” communities. The ethnic aisle is a physical manifestation of the fact that we live in a (white) colonial society where people of colour and Indigenous communities are still regarded as “others”.

I have hopes that the “ethnic aisle” is only a transitory stage as we work towards being more inclusive and recognizing our city’s diverse range of cultural backgrounds.

What can the food movement, and individuals who are a part of it, do to be more inclusive? Or, put another way, what can people from diverse cultural backgrounds do to have more prominent voices around food issues?

Kevin: Not a prescriptive checklist but some ideas: Build and invest in cultural competency. Empower those that have the lived cultural experiences. Work with those that are able to bridge cultures and create intercultural understanding.

Design programs and engagement models with a social justice and decolonizing lens. Recognize tokenism, unconscious bias, and avoid the Social and Moral Licensing trap. Be open to learning and challenging established beliefs and ways of thinking, both individual (self) and community (public).

Niki: I think all those involved in the food movement need to make the inclusion of all people of all backgrounds a priority, particularly those who are already participating in local food production but don’t have a voice at the table.

Also, there needs to be more linkages between organizations in different communities doing similar work.

Rebecca Cuttler is an urban gardening teacher, member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council and Houzz.com gardening contributor. She blogs about urban food gardening at http://abundantcity.net.


In Conversation with Susanna Millar

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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What’s your brief background – family, education, and work? How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House? What was your original interest in us?

My background and how I came to know GNH are closely linked. I studied social work and have always had an interest in agriculture. I had travelled and worked on several farms abroad as a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and always knew I wanted to incorporate this passion into my work somehow. Trying to connect my love of agriculture with social work seemed tricky at first, until I became familiar with the work GNH was doing around food and community. The GNH food philosophy was inspiring to me, and I felt this was a place where food could be grown locally with the community, cooked together, and shared over laughs. I am now grateful to be part of it.

Any suggestions for others to become involved with us? Any suggestions in ‘spreading the word’ via social media, word of mouth, newspapers, blog posts, articles, and so on?

We are always looking for folks to get more involved at the house. As cheesy as it sounds I truly believe there is something for everyone here. My suggestion is to check out our programs online or at the front desk, and if there’s something that interests you, sign up! We are also always hosting special events, so it is important to sign up for our newsletter and check out our Facebook page so you don’t miss those. If you see an event, post, or article that you like, chances are your friends might like it too- so be sure to share! GNH is a great place to meet new people, and I often hear stories of long lasting friendships that began at an event, in a program, or through volunteering. Don’t be shy…once you attend something you’ll be part of the GNH family.

You are a farmer and community programmer for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What are your tasks and responsibilities in that role?

As the farmer/community programmer I look after the GNH urban farms and community herb gardens around the West End. With 4 farms and 10 herb gardens to date, it’s safe to say I can’t keep up without an enormous amount of help from volunteers. The urban farm team is incredibly keen, and we go out each week to look after whatever needs to be done (weeding, watering, harvesting, and way more). Together we have learned how to maximize our space with salad greens, companion plant, troubleshoot with pests, and attract pollinators.  Once the produce is ready it gets harvested and brought back to Chef Peter, or one of our many other food related programs at the house.

Gordon Neighbourhood House wants to make the West End a better place to “live and grow” whilst remaining “sensitive to the ever changing needs of the diverse groups of people” in the neighbourhood. What do you see as the importance of this message and work by Gordon Neighbourhood House?

Being a better place to live and grow means all people feel welcome in this space. When I say there is something for everyone here, it means we strive to ensure that each person who walks in the door finds something important to them: English conversation class, a new friend, a tasty meal with neighbours, or a treasure at the attic.  It also means that this person has something to offer which makes this place grow alongside them: maybe they raise issues that affect seniors at the seniors’ lounge, or are looking to get their hands dirty at the farms, or find themselves starting a dance party at a Young Ideas event. With the West End being a fairly diverse community with a wide set of skills, interests and challenges, we see GNH mirroring such diversity in our programming and activities. This must also come with a commitment to critical conversations around how to make this community better in the future, and advocating to see that change happen.

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Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

It is my hope that Gordon House continues to grow in the direction it is headed. I dream of a place with farms on all sides, food in all rooms, and conversation amongst all people. As I say this however, I am sitting at the front desk on a regular Thursday night at GNH and it feels pretty good. The Rainbow Soup Social is cooking up a meal for the Community Food Hub tomorrow and it smells amazing, “Mexican Fiesta soup” they say. In room 1 there’s a free documentary film screening about the Site C dam, with a Coast Salish welcome song and drum. A couple regulars are chatting in the lobby over some coffee, and curious people come and go from the thrift store. I just commented to someone that I hoped to pop in to see the film because “it’s pretty quiet right now”. If this is quiet, I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a pretty high point. I trust it will continue to grow from here.

Thank you for your time, Susanna.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


Pelmeni and Pierogi Making Workshop

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This summer local residents Tanya Shinder and Tanya Fabrichnikova along with their friends led a pelmeni and pierogi making workshop for interested community members at Gordon Neighbourhood House. Pelmeni (Пельмени) are small meat dumplings which originated in Russia, Ukraine, and Siberia. Legend has it that Siberian hunters on winter expeditions would carry large frozen sacks of pelmeni, which could then be boiled in melted snow. While a plate of these dumplings may not look like much to the untrained eye, the dish requires specific techniques to prepare the thin dough and seal the dumplings.

This workshop was funded by a Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG) from the Vancouver Foundation. The NSG program is a unique initiative which funds resident-led projects that connect neighbours, share skills, and create a more resilient community.

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Armed with instructions from the expert instructors, workshop participants immediately spread out on several tables and began making the small dumplings. Obtaining the right consistency of the unleavened dough requires practice and patience. Too thin and dough will tear when boiled resulting in a dish that is sloppy and soggy, too thick and the pelmeni will be tough and doughy. By the end of the evening everyone was able to make a plateful of pelmeni and pierogis.

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The finished dumplings were then boiled in water infused with black pepper and bay leaves. When the pelmeni began to slowly rise to the surface of the gently boiling water they were strained from the pot and served with butter and soy sauce or sour cream.

After an hour and a half spent preparing and cooking the dumplings, everyone sat down at a long table and enjoyed a meal together while listening to stories from the instructors about making this traditional dish with their families. Tanya Shinder, who was once the proprietor of The Rasputin Restaurant on Broadway Street, even surprised the group with a homemade traditional triple-layered cake at the end of the meal!

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The Neighbourhood Small Grants program is an annual initiative that is funded by the Vancouver Foundation. Gordon Neighbourhood House coordinates the grants for residents on the Downtown Peninsula. For more information please contact Jim Balakshin at jim@gordonhouse.org or (604) 683-2554.

 


Linda’s 36th Anniversary!

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

Toast to Linda

Linda has been an integral part of the Gordon Neighbourhood House and West End community for over three decades. On behalf of our community, we want to express our deepest, heartfelt gratitude to someone not only indispensable to the community at large and to the individual lives influenced by her presence and interactions, but for playing a significant role in the growth of Gordon Neighbourhood House.

When Gordon Neighbourhood House opened in it’s current location at 1019 Broughton in 1986, HRH Prince Charles toured the house. Linda was there the day that he came to the house, in fact he shook her hand and commented on her important role at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

Royal Visit

Paul Taylor said, “Linda’s laugh brightens Gordon Neighbourhood House several times thorough the day. You couldn’t miss it!  It’s as much a part of this place as the walls are. Her commitment and dedication to her community is an inspiration to us all.”

Jim Balakshin said, “Linda is involved in so many aspects of Gordon Neighbourhood House. When we host events, Linda is often the first to arrive and will stay until everything is finished.”

Agata Feetham said, “Linda is a compassionate, kind, and loving person who truly cares about people. She is a hard worker and always willing to help anytime anyone needs it. Linda is a dedicated team player that everyone appreciates and she truly cares about Gordon House and the West End community. I am proud to call her my colleague and friend.”

Linda & Agata

Debra Bryant said, “Linda, you must have welcomed hundreds of newcomers into Gordon House and ANHBC.  Maybe that’s why you’re so good at it.  Thank you for warmly welcoming me when I joined a couple of years ago and for being part of the life of ANHBC for more than a third of our history.”

Thank you, Linda, and happy GNH 36th!

Linda and the crew

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


In Conversation with Stephanie Shulhan

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

 

Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I’m from Calgary, Alberta. My family’s small but close. Growing up, I always loved having little family card game nights, dinners, going for walks in Fish Creek Park, and I still love simple dinners and going for walks with my family.

I studied Anthropology and Development Studies (in Calgary), and Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems (UBC). I love studying and consider myself a life-long learner. Education isn’t just about school, and I learned a lot from the jobs I had while I was in school: I worked at a Drop-In Centre in Calgary and learned about how many of us don’t manage to earn a living even when working as many hours as possible, and then at Immigrant Services, which was eye-opening as I met new Canadian residents, refugees, and Temporary Workers with a huge range of life experience. In Vancouver, I loved learning about bees and pollinators during an Internship at UBC Farm, while I was studying issues of (popular) food culture and how we form our definitions of ‘good’ food.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

I got connected a bit to other N.H.s during my work with the Think&EatGreen@School Project during my studies at UBC.

What interested you about us?

When I saw Gordon Neighbourhood House was hiring, I thought it looked like a fabulous opportunity. I liked its Food Philosophy, range and scope of projects, and the fact that it was so well connected with so many other organizations and initiatives.

Now, you’re the Community Programmer for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position?

I see it as being mostly about making connections between people, programs, and resources, to respond to real needs/dreams of our neighbours. I help to connect a lot of great volunteers with opportunities to work on projects they’re interested in, share their skills and talents, and to connect with each other and with other members of the community. I like when volunteers and program participants can learn new things or make connections that help them in their personal and career goals.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

I think we’ll keep building on our partnerships to reach more people. I’m excited to see more spaces downtown for Good Food initiatives, and to be involved in animating those spaces and helping to bring awesome people into those spaces so they can do amazing things.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


In Conversation with Matt Schroeter (Board Chair)

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I’m from Washington State in the USA, and I’ve been living in Vancouver for a little over 8 years now. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be some kind of artist—I just wasn’t sure what kind!

I ended up getting interested in graphic design and got an Associate’s Degree from Centralia College in that. I then got really interested in film, and earned a Bachelor of Art’s Degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. I eventually found my skills more aligned with digital design, so I pursued a Master’s Degree up here in Vancouver—at the Centre for Digital Media.

Throughout high school and university, I was working as a photojournalist and doing freelance design work when it came up. Now I’m working at a small agency making apps and websites, mostly for healthcare and technology companies based in the USA. Outside of that, I’m constantly taking photos around the city, working on personal art/design projects, doing freelance design work, and volunteering with GNH.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

I was brought into GNH by a mutual friend of Paul Taylor’s about 4 years ago. I was so interested in what was going on there, that I asked Paul how I could lend my skills in the best way. They really needed a new website at the time, and that was something I loved doing. I thought it was a great chance to help out the community and start getting involved.

What interested you about us?

So many things! I liked the sheer diversity of the programs and the people they served—from youth to seniors, and every age group in between. The friendliness of the staff and the willingness to open their doors to the people in the community was especially nice to feel.

Now, you’re the Board Chair for the Young Ideas Steering Committee, Young Ideas Communications Committee & Neighbourhood Small Grants Advisory. What tasks and responsibilities come with these positions?

Currently I’m the board chair for the GNH Community Advisory Board. I’m also member of the Young Ideas Communications Committee and GNH Fundraising Committee. Previously, I served on the Neighbourhood Small Grants Committee for 2 years, but this year I decided to give it a break.

Outside of reading and organizing materials for those meetings, I try to make it to as many events related to those groups as I can. For all of those positions, it’s really important to have a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood. Making a habit of getting involved in the wide range of GNH events has been the perfect way to get that sense. Often I’ll go to the events as a photographer, and while I’m there I meet people from the community.

How did you come upon, and earn, these positions?

For the Community Advisory Board, I served on the board first—and was elected once the previous chair stepped down. For the other committees, I just expressed my interest to Paul once I heard about them. I’m always looking for new ways to help out GNH, and it’s been so fascinating seeing the it change from those different perspectives since I got involved.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

First, I hope GNH can continue doing all this things it’s been doing. I think we’re incredibly fortunate to have a space, staff, and volunteers that make all of the current programs possible. Looking further, I hope that GNH can grow the connections it has in the community and in the city. Thinking about all the work GNH has done, especially around food—the potential to implement similar models in other neighborhoods is very encouraging.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.

Photo by David Arias.


In Conversation with Agata Feetham

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I am originally from Poland. I moved to Canada when I was 8 years old with my parents and younger brother. We were very fortunate to have a smooth immigration experience and have been living in Vancouver since 1989. I went to UBC and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and then a Diploma in Guidance Studies (through the Faculty of Education). I have been working for Gordon Neighbourhood House for a total of 15 years and currently I am the Program Director.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House? 

During my first year in University, I started volunteering at my local neighbourhood House (South Van NH) and there I came across a job posting for a child care worker at GNH.

What interested you about us? 

As a psychology student, I was very excited to gain experience working with children in a community setting.

Now, you’re the Program Director for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position? 

As the Program Director, I oversee the majority of programs that are not food initiatives (we have a Director of Community Food Initiatives). This includes program coordination, program evaluation, and overseeing a number of community program staff that run and supervise a wide variety of programs.

How did you come upon, and earn, this position?

I took part-time classes throughout university so that I could work part-time and gain experience. I started working in different positions with children and youth (e.g. Out of School Care, Summer and Spring Break Day Camps, etc.) at Gordon Neighbourhood House in 2001 and 3 months after I graduated from the Diploma program in 2005, I was offered the position of Child, Family, and Youth Program Coordinator. Since then, my position and title have changed a couple of times and I now work with GNH as the Program Director.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future? 

My hope for GNH is that it continues to grow and expand the wonderful work that it already offers. I am extremely proud and honoured to be part of an organization and staff team that truly makes a difference in the lives of our neighbours. GNH is very dear to my heart. I have witnessed hundreds of examples over the last 15 years of how essential GNH is to making the West End a vibrant, healthy, and active community.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


In Conversation with Chantal Denis

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I was born and raised in Ottawa, and lived there until I left to attend Western University in London, Ontario. I started out in biomedical sciences but ended up graduating with a degree in psychology, with the goal of teaching primary French immersion. During the summer of 2012, I had a rather sudden change of heart and realized that I wanted to pursue food. Vegetarian at the time, I found a job at one of Ottawa’s most well known vegetarian restaurants, a pay-by-weight buffet called The Green Door. That was where my cooking career began and where I was first introduced to the kind of large scale cooking I now do daily. I spent 3 years working there, including while I was taking a post-graduate certificate in Event Management. Last summer, I cooked for a tree-planting camp and after that I decided, on a whim, to move to Vancouver in pursuit of a better life as a commuter cyclist. Only a month after my arrival, I was lucky enough to land a job as Vega’s Office Chef, where I prepare a daily vegan lunch for 100 employees at their headquarters in Burnaby. So far, my life on the West Coast has been pretty dreamy!

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

The weekend after I officially moved to Vancouver, I met a friend of a friend on a trip to Salt Spring Island. She lives in the West End and had been involved with GNH. She told me about the Nourish photo series and suggested that I be photographed. That photoshoot led to an in-depth conversation with Matt (the photographer and chair of GNH’s Community Advisory Board) about food philosophy. He introduced me to Paul and the rest is history!

What interested you about us?

I think the first thing that really drew me to GNH is the incredible energy of the space. It’s a hard thing to describe, but I suppose the best way to put it is that Gordon has very, very good vibes. After such a good first impression, what sealed the deal was the fact that Gordon’s food philosophy so closely mirrors my own. Their radical stance on food security really resonated with me and I absolutely love how community-minded all of their food programming is.

Now, you’re the Cooking With Chantal and Veggie Soup-a-Stars Coordinator for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with these positions?

Cooking With is a plant-based cooking class that I have the absolute pleasure of teaching once a month. For this class, I am responsible for choosing a theme and then developing/selecting recipes that we will be making. Once all that preparation is done and the ingredients have been acquired, I am responsible for facilitating the 2 hour class with my goal always being to empower people to cook by providing as many new skills and laughs as I can.

Veggie Soup-a-Stars is a weekly community kitchen that is much more low key than the cooking classes. I am responsible for leading a group of amazing volunteers as we prepare a large meal Sunday evenings that will be served for “Meatless Monday” – a pay-what-you-can lunch program that usually attracts around 25 people. I don’t prepare recipes for this group but I do have to plan the menus and gather the ingredients. I am also responsible for weekly reminders to the group and coordinating things if I happen to be away for a weekend. During the community kitchen, I assign tasks and provide tips when applicable. We’ve developed into a really strong team and I am so impressed by how efficient we are and by what a lovely community we’ve created!

How did you come upon, and earn, these positions?

I feel very grateful that these positions were more or less created for me by Paul and Chantille. I expressed interest in getting involved with GNH and wanted to put to use my large-scale cooking experience as well as my passion for making plant-based cooking affordable and accessible. After a few chats with Chantille, they created these programs that were a great fit for me to facilitate as well as very complementary additions to the existing programming at GNH.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

I hope that GNH never lets go of its radical food philosophy and keeps pushing the boundaries of the current food system in Vancouver. I believe that food programs are such an integral part of the work done by Gordon and I hope that they continue to evolve in a meaningful and community-minded way. I think that Gordon being involved in the creation of a Community Food Centre would be a huge step towards a better, more just food system in Vancouver.

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


Vegetable Deliveries Turn Into Clothing Donations

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SPUD Vancouver and The Attic Thrift Stores have partnered on a unique fundraiser for Gordon Neighbourhood House. SPUD is a local company that offers online grocery shopping and delivery for fresh produce and local organic foods. Every day SPUD delivers hundreds of totes of food to subscribers all across Metro Vancouver. Normally the empty totes are picked up by delivery drivers when a new shipment is delivered.

For the week of June 6th-12th  SPUD subscribers could place gently-used clothes and household items into their empty bins, and SPUD drivers would then drop off the donations at The Attic Thrift Store.

Gordon Neighbourhood House now operates two locations of the popular Attic Thrift Store, the original at 1019 Broughton Street (between Comox and Nelson) and the second location at 1340 Davie Street (near Jervis Street).

The social enterprise stores sell donated items to raise funds for programs at initiatives at GNH.

“We are very grateful for the generosity of Vancouverites, and companies like SPUD who supported this unique campaign,” stated Jim Balakshin, a Community Programmer at GNH who supports the Attic Thrift Store Volunteer Team, “We are always excited to introduce more people to our stores, and at the same time receive great donations that we can make available at affordable prices.”

The initiative generated hundreds of donations which filled an entire SPUD delivery van.

Thank you SPUD for supporting Gordon Neighbourhood House! If your business or organization is interested in partnering with The Attic Thrift Store, please contact Jim@gordonhouse.org ‪#‎togetherwegrow

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Looking Up: New Art Installation Brings Life and Colour to GNH

By Zoey Gray, GNH Community Journalist/Blogger

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Visitors to Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) may have noticed a recent addition to its interior – large, colourful, and intricate, a new sculptural installation now hangs beneath the skylights of GNH. This addition to the space was proposed by GNH Executive Director Paul M. Taylor, and was brought to life this past winter by students and faculty from UBC’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory.

A wooden art installation hanging in Impact Hub Ottawa was what inspired Paul Taylor to bring some sculptural art into the neighbourhood house. Moved by this wooden installation, Taylor soon partnered with UBC, where his idea was met with great enthusiasm from the university’s Visual Arts Department.

UBC’s Visual Art 401D students, led by professor Richard Prince and instructor/coordinator Christine d’Onofrio, worked diligently to bring the project to completion within a matter of months. Although they worked under the mentorship of their two instructors, Prince credits nearly all the hard work to his students. Within the time constraints of their semester, Prince says his 22 students worked together to design and complete the entire installation, titled “One Thousand Kinds of Wind.”

“It became a really important class for the students, because all of a sudden they weren’t just working in theory, or working for themselves, they were working for a public project,” explains Prince.

With this goal in mind, the class brought a multitude of their own ideas together and tailored their design to suit GNH. The leaf-like shapes within the installation, says student Ariel Kaplen, were inspired by the leaves within the GNH logo, while the variety of colours was intended to cultivate a welcoming space for GNH’s wide age demographic. The colour choices, adds Kaplen, were carefully chosen by the students in order to have them complement the space. With the installation set under a skylight, she explains, the students had to consider how the sunlight would interact with the piece.

“We wanted to have that sort of visibility where if the light was going through [the installation] at a certain time of day, it would go through the translucent pieces and cast the colour upon the walls,” adds Sara Sampson, another student who worked on the project. Indeed, at the right time of day, visitors will be lucky enough to witness the sculpture splash the walls with different colours.

The piece was installed soon after its completion, thanks to Ben Bakk, Warren Bakk, and Doug Sissons of Vision Pacific Construction. Future plans for the space include renovations designed by international design and architecture firm Perkins+Will in late 2016, and will consist of newly painted walls as well as interior lighting, both of which will complement the installation.

And the new installation has already sparked a buzz amidst the neighbourhood community. Enlivening a once empty space, “One Thousand Kinds of Wind” has made visitors look up, pause, and appreciate the installation, striking them with a feeling much like that which was felt by Paul M. Taylor many months ago in Impact Hub Ottawa.

“It’s so wonderful to see members of our community so proud of their neighbourhood house,” says Paul Taylor, “because it’s a place with a really beautiful, engaging art piece. I think it’s pretty special and will be here for years to come.”

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One Thousand Kinds of Wind (December 2015)

Nadya Bowcott
Holly Clarke
Liang Che
Teresa Chu
Makoto Hoshina
Ariel Kaplen
Alexander Korchev
Tamlyn Kunimoto
Ria Ma
Kamille Manoy
Breanna Mulhall
Ella Li
Rebecca Ou
Chelsea Park
Jiapei Qin
Sara Sampson
Lin Tai
Elizabeth Villalva
Ke Wang
Chadman Wong
Richard Yeung
Victoria Zhu

Professor: Richard Prince
Instructor/Coordinator: Christine d’Onofrio
Paul M. Taylor, Gordon Neighbourhood House