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