Eat Think Vote session from 2015 West End Food Festival

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Food matters to you and to all of us.  So let’s make sure food matters to our politicians.  That’s the rationale for the campaign entitled Eat Think Vote, outlined on the site of Food Secure Canada http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org/, the dynamic national alliance of organizations and people aiming to make our food systems just, healthy, and ecological. 

Gordon Neighbourhood House was the site of an Eat Think Vote event, on the evening of Monday, Sept 21, where federal candidates for Vancouver Centre spoke about food and responded to questions – including the need for a national food policy and the troublesome lack of school programs for children who may not get adequate healthy sustenance at home.  Panelists were the Green Party’s Lisa Barrett, Liberal candidate Hedy Fry, and New Democratic Party candidate Constance Barnes.

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Each candidate outlined a few of their personal, and their party’s, positions.  Liberal Hedy Fry talked about the importance of food policy, and said she is particularly concerned about food safety and the lack of adequate attention to that issue from the Conservative government.   Constance Barnes said the NDP believes food is a right, that it has championed school food programs, and that she would like to see a ban on the advertising of food to children.  Lisa Barrett said that our societies need to stop thinking of food as a commodity, and ensure that all are fed.  She said the Green party would develop a Council of Canadian Governments to help levels of government work together on big issues like food.

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The session was a useful introduction to the three candidates and their parties.  I spoke afterward with Paul Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House.  He agreed that these kinds of events are useful for audience members – but also that such public discussions affect the politicians themselves by encouraging them to put food higher on their priority lists.

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Part of the 2015 West End Food Festival, the Eat Think Vote session was co-organized and sponsored by Gordon Neighbourhood House, the Vancouver Food Policy Council, BC Food Systems Network, Neighbourhood Food Networks, and the Vancouver Urban Farming Society.

By Eleanor Boyle
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger

Photos taken by Matt Schroeter.

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“Good Food Grants” From Community Food Centres Canada Invest in a Burgeoning Good Food Movement

Pop up produce standGNH Community Programmer Isabel Ashton, and GNH Food Advocate Andrew Christie at the Pop-up Produce Stand at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

Vancouver, BC, September 11, 2015—Gordon Neighbourhood House is pleased to announce it has been awarded one of five $50,000 grants from Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) as part of its Good Food Organizations program. The grant will enable Gordon Neighbourhood House to build on our innovative community food programs

This grant stream, entitled Good Food Grants, is available to members of CFCC’s Good Food Organizations program which supports Canadian food security organizations by increasing their capacity to offer healthy and dignified food programs in their communities. The 2015 Good Food Grants, totalling $250,000, marks Community Food Centres Canada’s foray into grant-making activities.

“We are at an exciting time in the growth of our community food initiatives in the West End. There is a huge appetite in the community for the development of initiatives that go beyond traditional emergency responses to hunger, but that challenge the systems that hold hunger in place. This support will allow us to develop a suite of capacity building food programs in our community” says Paul M. Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House.

Grantees have been selected from among the 75 Good Food Organizations (GFOs) who have aligned themselves with CFCC based on shared principles, and who are working with low-income communities to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.

“Over the past three years, we have developed eight new Community Food Centre partnerships across the country, from Calgary to Dartmouth, and we’ve learned what it takes to succeed,” says Kathryn Scharf, Chief Operating Officer of CFCC. Scharf says that grassroots organizations can have significant impacts with relatively modest investments, “but we must acknowledge that, as our safety net frays, the strands cannot be knit back together by organizations that are chronically understaffed and inconsistently resourced. We would love to see a full-fledged Community Food Centre in every town and city, and while we can’t do that today, we are working with organizations with similar values to test how sharing ideas and resources can accelerate their work and build a shared case for its value.

Gordon Neighbourhood House is joined by four other grantees selected from across Canada including Nelson Food Cupboard Society in Nelson, BC; YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, in Peterborough; Parkdale Food Centre in Ottawa, and NDG Food Depot in Montreal.

Media inquiries: Paul M. Taylor, Executive Director, Gordon Neighbourhood House 604 683 2554 ext. 202 or paul@gordonhouse.org

Media inquiries: Christina Palassio, Director of Communications, Community Food Centres Canada 416 531 8826 ext. 229 or christina@cfccanada.ca

Gordon Neighbourhood House has served as a community hub in Vancouver’s West End since 1942. We have a history of working alongside our neighbours to facilitate connection, engagement, and collaboration while seizing opportunities for community development. Our mission is to make the West End a better neighbourhood in which to live and grow and to ensure that our community is a vibrant and active community, where everyone is empowered to play an active role in civil society.

The Good Food Organizations program is an initiative of Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC). CFCC provides resources and a proven approach to partner organizations across Canada to create Community Food Centres that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food. CFCC also works with the broader food movement to build greater capacity for impact and to empower communities to work toward a healthy and fair food system. For more information, visit www.cfccanada.ca or follow @aplaceforfood.


Neighbourhood Small Grants Connect Residents

Beach Lodge Solstice Party

Beach Lodge is an attractive heritage apartment building that is home to 40 residents in Vancouver’s West End Neighbourhood. The three-storey, brick building is located on Gilford Street, within sight of the ivy-covered Silvia Hotel, and English Bay just over a block away.

Even though Beach Lodge is situated within one of Vancouver’s most densely-populated neighbourhoods, resident Michael Seaborn noticed that his building lacked a sense of community.

“People knew each other in passing, but no one had spent any real time with one another in any organized way”, remarked Seaborn. While “everyone doesn’t fall into the same demographic” Seaborn realized potential and noted that “everyone has commonalities.”

While this sense of disconnection is troubling, it is not uncommon in Vancouver. After surveying hundreds of community leaders in 2011, the Vancouver Foundation was surprised to learn that the issue that concerned respondents most “was a growing sense of isolation and disconnection.”

To counter these concerns, the Foundation started the Neighbourhood Small Grants program which funds resident-led projects that help build community and strengthen connections.

At Beach Lodge, Michael Seaborn and neighbor David Stephen were awarded a grant to organize a community dinner and social event for residents in their apartment building.

The event took place on the lawn in front of their Beach Lodge on a warm June evening. The organizers rented a BBQ and ordered food, and on the night of the party residents brought down tables and chairs from their apartments. While planning, it was discovered that one resident was a chef. He later volunteered to BBQ the food for the event. The organizers also arranged games, and a ukulele player to play songs throughout the night. At one point an elderly couple who were passing by, started dancing to the Ukulele music, and then carried on with their evening stroll.

While Seaborn hypothesizes that it was the food that originally intrigued residents, he believes it was the novelty of the evening which encouraged between 25-30 people to actually attend.

“The event was a great success and more than three quarters of the building’s residents were able to participate. Everything came together,” remarked Seaborn, “It was a beautiful spring solstice night, with a very collegial and relaxed environment.”

Since the event, Michael has observed a noticeable difference in the interactions amongst his neighbours. Whereas in the past it was sometimes difficult to make meaningful connections. “Residents now know enough about their neighbours. They know their names, what they do, and their background,” stated Seaborn, “They now know who their neighbours are as a person, and can share common human experiences. People who had lived side by side for years formed a connection and now there is a strong interest in holding more such events in the future. One thought has been to expand the next event to include the building across the street, and possibly eventually into a block gathering.”

Neighbourhood Small Grants for the Downtown Peninsula are coordinated through Gordon Neighbourhood House and funded by the Vancouver Foundation. The next application deadline is March 2016. For more information visit neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca, or contact Jim Balakshin, the Neighbourhood Small Grants Coordinator at Jim@gordonhouse.org.

Photos by Neighbourhood Small Grant Co-Applicant David Stephen
Written by Jim Balakshin


City of Vancouver Declares June 15th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day at Gordon Neighbourhood House Luncheon

IMG_20150615_132724Neighbourhood Small Grant Organizing Team Member Peggy Casey, With Gordon Neighbourhood House Seniors Advocate Grace Hann.

Elder abuse is a global issue which affects millions of older persons around the world, including in our community.

This year several West End seniors hosted a luncheon to raise awareness about this prevalent issue.

Audrey Richards is a regular in the Seniors’ Lounge at Gordon Neighbourhood House and has been a longtime volunteer. “Anybody who has worked with Seniors will tell you that senior abuse is common, and that many seniors are abused mentally, physically, and emotionally,” noted Richards. “You wouldn’t believe the horror stories we have heard.”

“Most of the abuse that seniors experience doesn’t get reported,” explained Richards, “we are from a generation that is not comfortable disclosing our problems, and many victims are embarrassed or ashamed. We want people to know that this can happen to anyone.”

The organizers hoped that the event would empower seniors to talk about the cause, and prevent future occurrences by encouraging discussion and reporting.

The group started raising awareness about elder abuse 4 years ago when Tanya Truelsen started making purple ribbons. The UN has declared June 15th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and many wear purple ribbons to support the opposition to the abuse and suffering. Since then, Tanya and the group have made over 12,000 ribbons.

This year the Seniors aimed to raise more awareness, and connect with others working to eliminate elder abuse in the community. To do this they applied for a Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grant to host a luncheon at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

The Neighbourhood Small Grants program is unique in the country as it awards small grants for resident-led projects within their community. The hope is that these projects will encourage connection amongst residents, which in turn will make communities more connected, healthy, and resilient. The grant paid for the room rental, food, entertainment, and ribbons.

“We decided to host a luncheon as it is an effective way to reach people who might not feel comfortable talking about elder abuse, or may not go for help at a counselling office,” explained Project Leader Heidi McDonell. Peggy Casey, who helped organize the event, remarked “a lunch is very accessible, and a great way to interact with others.”

The luncheon took place on June 15th, and attracted over 50 local residents and community partners, including City Councillor George Affleck, and West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. Affleck represented the City of Vancouver, and read a proclamation declaring June 15th, 2015 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Vancouver.

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MLA for Vancouver-West End/Coal Harbour Spencer Chandra Herbert with attendees at the World Elders Abuse Awareness Day Luncheon. 

The event raised awareness not only for residents, but staff at Gordon Neighbourhood House as well. Malik Jama, the Office Administrator remarked that, “Seniors are an important part of our community, and a source of wisdom and experience. This event increased my level of awareness of elder abuse.”

After the event, the senior organizers were overwhelmingly positive about the turnout and result of the luncheon.

“This event brought together people who are working to eradicate elder abuse for the very first time in a social setting,” noted Heidi McDonell. “It was great to see everyone dedicated to this issue in one room. It was very inspirational knowing that we are not alone and are all working together, the workload immediately felt lifted.”

By Jim Balakshin


Gordon Neighbourhood House Volunteer Recognized by Lieutenant Governor as one of 36 Outstanding BC Citizens

Tanya Fabrichnikova receives BC Community Award

On April 24th, 2015, Tanya Fabrichnikova was awarded the British Columbia Achievement Award in a Ceremony at Government House in Victoria. The annual event recognizes extraordinary British Columbians who positively impact individuals, groups, and communities.

For nearly 20 years Tanya has volunteered at The Attic thrift store located on the second floor of Gordon Neighbourhood House t supports Gordon Neighbourhood House.

Any regular thrifter will tell you that The Attic is unlike most chain thrift stores. The small, two-storey space is packed with the hundreds of donations that arrive daily. The store operates more like a community space than a store, and most volunteers (many who have volunteered here for more than a decade) know regular customers on a first-name basis.

“I love being a volunteer at Gordon Neighbourhood House,” said Tanya, “it is a pleasure and I am happy to do it.” While Tanya is well deserving of the praise, she is quick to thank the others who volunteer at the store, “Valya, Kathy, Zoya, Alina, Raya, Larisa, Fran…,” along with other new volunteers who have just started.

On the day that Tanya received her award, she and her son Igor, along with friends Natasha Tukaeva, and Ellen Ignateva and two others had to wake up at 5:00am to catch the first ferry to Victoria. Prior to arriving at Government House, Tanya had no idea how prestigious the honour was. “Government House is very historical and regal, there were portraits all over the walls”, recalled Fabrichnikova.

Tanya and her entourage were “shocked and amazed” at the two and a half hour long ceremony and reception afterwards. Tanya noted, “The ceremony was gorgeous and very special, I was so happy I felt like a movie star.”

“I am honored to receive such an award.  It was an unforgettable experience in my life.  When I was receiving the award I was on the stage with 35 other great people from all over British Columbia. It was very exciting and I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life”, reminisced Tanya.

In a letter addressed to Tanya, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert noted “I am pleased that your passion and hard work have been recognized. I would like to commend you for your dedication to the West End and Gordon Neighbourhood House.”

Congratulations Tanya on you well deserved honour! Volunteerism is at the heart of Gordon Neighbourhood House, and we couldn’t accomplish the things we do without the help of many volunteers like Tanya. Thanks for all you do to positively impact our neighbourhood and community.

By Jim Balakshin

Tanya Medal
Tanya Certificate

New Look Planned for Gordon Neighbourhood House

For many years, Gordon Neighbourhood House has offered West Enders a welcoming environment and a variety of services and programs. But the building is getting old and it’s due for an upgrade. Paul Taylor, Executive Director at Gordon Neighbourhood House, has been working with funders to secure funds to upgrade the space to give it a “revitalized physical presence” for the community so that “all of our neighbours are proud to call Gordon Neighbourhood House their neighbourhood house.”

Perkins+Will, an international design firm, has been supporting the facelift by providing pro bono design and research support to the project. Alex Minard, Senior Associate at Perkins+Will, hopes to make Gordon Neighbourhood House stand out by creating enough visual interest on the exterior to spark curiosity. ”Little Band-Aid solutions are not enough,” he says. “The project requires a holistic look at improving the entire building to make it a comfortable, welcoming environment that allows [neighbours] to feel supported and connected with their community.”

Linda Minamimaye (Director of Operations) has been with Gordon Neighbourhood House for 33 years -ever since the old design was brand new – and is excited about the upcoming changes. She thinks the facelift will make Gordon Neighbourhood House more inviting, and that bright new colours will help make it feel as vibrant as the programs and initiatives.

Linda Rubuliak, Manager of YMCA Connections and active community member, hopes the facelift will make optimal use of Gordon Neighbourhood House and ensure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable, and at the same time reinforce its role as “a key hub in the community, building on its existing programs and services.”

This is an exciting time for Gordon Neighbourhood House and the West End community.

Written by Soroush Moghaddam
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger 


INSPIRE 2014: Conference Attendees Visit GNH

Some two dozen attendees at INSPIRE 2014 – the International Neighbourhood House and Settlement Conference – came to Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) on May 8 to participate in a neighbourhood house tour and discussion about GNH’s food programs.

Tour participants came from across Canada, the US, Britain, France, the Netherlands and India, and they were excited by the opportunity to share lunch, exchange ideas, and ask questions. Here are some highlights from the panel discussion:

  • Andrew Christie, Gordon Neighbourhood House’s Community Food Advocate, explained that discussions about food can serve as a tool for social cohesion. Andrew noted that 75-80% of people indicate that one of the reasons that they come to the low-cost community lunch program is to connect with their neighbours.
  • Paul Taylor, Executive Director of Gordon Neighbourhood House, highlighted serious problems with the current charity model and noted that nutritious food was often hard to come by via emergency or charitable sources. He says that this is compounded by the idea that often emergency/charitable food sources mostly offer Eurocentric options. Paul emphasized that he has been pleased by the efforts of the Vancouver Food Bank and their leadership on working to reform the model.
  • Ross Moster, President of the Village Vancouver Transition Society, suggested that the food bank system had become “a huge self-perpetuating program,” even though it was originally intended to be a temporary solution. He also indicated that people need to move away from the current charity model and instead create a peer situation, which allows everyone to take from and give back to the program. Like Paul, Ross emphasized that organizations like GNH must connect people with one another and facilitate people-powered programs and systems to generate trust in the community.

It was an engaging and fruitful discussion, and the hosts at GNH hope that their guests have returned home with fresh ideas about how to address similar challenges in their own communities.

Written by Soroush Moghaddam
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger

 

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News from the Seniors Community Planning Table

It was a full house at last month’s Seniors Community Planning Table – West End Meeting at Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), where the following topics were covered:

Vancouver Public Space Network

Simon Jay, a volunteer with Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) explained that VPSN is interested in making public space accessible and enjoyable for everyone. However, he noted that in the past, seniors’ viewpoints were often missing. So VPSN was now specifically interested in running a project to find out from as many seniors as possible, what makes public space work for them?

A lively discussion followed on a range of public space issues affecting seniors including impacts of bicycles on sidewalks; appropriate seating (e.g. benches with backs); lighting and protection from the elements; and creating spaces that feel safe and encourage seniors to get out.

We also learned from one participant that in the UK, coordinated activities, such as chair-based exercises, are run in public spaces. These initiatives are highly effective in improving people’s confidence to get out and use public space. Often, if isolated seniors get used to participating this way, they will then start using spaces independently leading to improved well -being.

Simon’s call for 3-4 West End seniors to volunteer and help him with further dialogue sessions and in promoting this work was met with enthusiastic responses.

Discussion then continued around the rerouting of buses in the West End and the impacts of this on seniors’ mobility. You can follow links here if you are interested in reading some recent updates about downtown transportation issues.

SFU Seniors Lifelong Learning Society

Scott Ricker from the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learning Society shared information about the wide range of courses SFU Continuing Studies offers through its Adults 55+ programming. Currently, over 1900 people are registered. The Society also does a lot of outreach work at Carnegie Centre and with First Nations. In addition, they sponsor free forums on amazing topics on designated Saturdays in the fall and winter. New downtown courses (about $104/course) start in September, with financial assistance available in some cases for individuals experiencing financial hardship. New course catalogues will be out this summer and more information is available online.

Community News

Plans were discussed for marking World Wide Awareness Day for Elder Abuse, June 15, with activities along Denman Street. A key activity was to raise community awareness through distributing purple ribbons, the symbol for this critical issue. The many people whose efforts helped moved this project along were honored, including Tanja Truelson, and Maureen Hallam, who consistently drove Tanja to craft shops to get purple ribbon supplies. A huge thanks for this community initiative, which could only happen through the dedication of several volunteers!

Tony Tang, City of Vancouver Councillor, also presented highlights from Vancouver’s first action plan for seniors, the Age Friendly Action Plan. A discussion followed on initiatives such as “dementia friendly” communities (examples from the UK were once more mentioned); and ways to make ALL community members, including front-line City workers, aware of dementia-related issues.

Finally, there was an update by Central Presbyterian Church members, regarding their housing development plans.

The meeting was complemented by the generous donation of snacks from Whole Foods.

Written by Community Journalist/GNH Blogger Anita Miettunen 


I love food. And if it’s tasty, all the better!

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I love food. And if it’s tasty, all the better! Especially when I cook my own food or know who’s cooking my food – it somehow tastes better.

Other than a couple of pasta and Mexican dishes, I don’t know how to cook much from scratch. Give me some recipes and some prepped ingredients, and I can do ok. But learning how to cook something new has always been challenging to do by myself – I always do better when it’s taught by someone in person. That’s when the really interesting things happen – when you stop worrying about the exact measurements of things and start cooking based on what you feel or taste is right.

A few weeks ago, I started going to this cooking class/communal dinner event in Vancouver called Consuming Conversations. It’s put on by some people at the Gordon Neighbourhood House, which is a kind of community centre that offers cool programs like this. It’s a chance to learn how to cook a new dish, and after you’ve helped prep the dish you eat alongside the people you’ve cooked with. After going for a few weeks, I’ve learned to cook quite a few things – calzones, pesto linguini with poached eggs, sushi, and miso soup.

Each time, the lead chef preps some of the ingredients, but it’s up to most of us to finish the process and put everything together. While we cook, we get to meet new people and just talk. It’s been a great way to step out of my social norm and meet some new people, while building something together that we’ll all enjoy. And it’s free – which is really important to get people willing to learn and help out, no matter where you come from. It’s all about opening up to the community around us, and showing how nice it can be when people get together to build something wonderful like tasty food. I’m hoping to learn tons of dishes by the end of the year, so I can be less cautious in the kitchen and more confident about experimenting with food!

This is a special to the GNH Blog on ‘Consuming Conversations’ by Matthew Schroeter.

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Come and celebrate Earth Day with us at our Community Potluck!

Gordon Neighbourhood House’s (GNH) Earth Day Community Potluck, co-hosted by MP Dr. Hedy Fry and MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, is one of our largest events throughout the year. We anticipate the participation of many of our neighbours, friends, community leaders, and sponsors for an evening of positive and constructive discussions aimed at building community in the West End.

Our annual potluck is supported and sponsored by many of our community friends and partners, including Village Vancouver, Our City of Colours, Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Health Initiative for Men, Vancity, West End Neighbourhood Food Network, and The Attic Thrift Store.

Kathryn Fitzgerald, Branch Manager of Vancity’s West End Community Branch, believes that “sharing a meal is a great way to unify a community. It brings people together to share stories and build relationships within that community.” “Participating in community events is part of Vancity’s West End Branch commitment,” adds Kathryn.

Darren Usher, Program Manager at the Health Initiative for Men (HIM) also realizes the value of community gatherings and is pleased that HIM and GNH have partnered for this event. He views this community potluck as a melting pot, in terms of both food and people. For Darren, it was a “no brainer” for HIM to partner with GNH because events such as this serve a significant purpose and help to “change some of our precepts and some of our prejudices.”

The lead organizer of the Earth Day Potluck is GNH’s Community Food Advocate, Andrew Christie. The potluck merges Andrew’s passions for community development and cultivating and eating healthy food. It has largely been due to his creative vision, critical thinking and hard work that this year’s event has come to fruition. According to Andrew, “food is a great mechanism for bringing people who may not otherwise meet together and giving them an opportunity to get to know their neighbours.”

Paul Taylor, GNH’s Executive Director, is excited about this community potluck and sees it as an integral part of GNH’s broader goals and plans. “Gordon Neighbourhood House uses food to nourish our community in a variety of ways, including the facilitation of intercultural exchange and dialogue,” Paul explains, “and the Earth Day Community Potluck is a great mechanism for this.”

Sharing is caring, and eating healthy food with good friends is great. So, join us on April 22nd and share your food and stories with your neighbours and friends.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our largest events of the year.

Written by Community Journalist/GNH Blogger Soroush Moghaddam