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!


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.


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 

Call for 2014 Neighbourhood Small Grants Applications

Make the Downtown Peninsula stronger and more engaged!

The 2014 Neighbourhood Small Grants program is now open and we’re looking for your applications by Monday, April 7, 2014 at 5pm.

The program supports residents like you who have small but powerful ideas to bring people together and make your community vibrant and engaged. Through the support of a Neighbourhood Small Grant (ranging from $50 to $1,000), you can tap into your creativity and leadership to develop projects that meet the needs of your community.

Think you’ve got a great idea? There are two granting streams available –Neighbourhood Small Grants and Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants.

Neighbourhood Small Grants help residents by encouraging them to come up with their own ideas – workshops, book exchanges or block parties – to strengthen and build vital connections in their own community. Vancouver Foundation then funds those ideas so you can make them reality.

Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants are part of the Greenest City Fund, a Vancouver Foundation partnership with the City of Vancouver to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. If you’re a resident of Vancouver and have a project idea that has a green impact, apply for a Greenest City grant. From ideas like introducing composting in your office to growing local food to planting trees, the green possibilities are endless!

Apply now!

Community Voices: Responses to the West End Plan

Three months ago, Vancouver City Council approved the West End Community Plan. So has the dust settled? As the City gears up to implement the Plan, it looks like things will be as busy as ever.

The West End Community Plan sets direction on a number of fronts. From arts and culture to community well-being, heritage and housing to transportation––these are just a few examples of the Plan’s focus for helping shape the West End’s future. According to the City’s website, the Plan can’t encompass everything. But it aligns with other key planning initiatives that are also meant to address the community’s challenges and needs in the coming years.

Recently, Gordon Neighbourhood House decided to contact some West End community members to hear their responses to the Plan.

Randy Helten, a Director of the West End Neighbours group, thinks that many people will be surprised when they start to feel the effects of dramatic changes that have been set in motion in parts of the community and will wonder when and how they were decided.

“The community plan process did make considerable progress,” he said, “but it was rushed and approved by City Council prematurely, without having truly engaged enough people in the community in a discussion about the issues and options.” He added that a lot of taxpayers’ money was spent to create a sophisticated 3D model of the West End, but it was only barely used.

“West End Neighbours will continue to monitor changes as they arise,” he said. “We will do our best to involve as many residents as possible in community discussions. Our aim is to enhance and celebrate the quality of life; the distinct, diverse character; and the heritage of the West End.”

According to Stephen Regan, Executive Director of the West End Business Improvement Association, his group supported the Plan as a tool to help revitalize the commercial streets.

“Not everything we wanted landed in the Plan,” he said,  “but some key items included a clear focus on enhancing the commercial streets and championing the concept of a ‘West End Loop’.”

He added, “Linking the West End’s great commercial streets to Granville Street through strategies like decorative lighting could create the right kind of animation to support business success.”

Brent Granby, a West End community organizer, is pleased with many of the positive elements coming out of the Plan. For example, sustainable transportation measures, including traffic calming, will mean better cycling routes between English Bay and Burrard Street.

Brent sees the Plan’s proposed laneway housing as another plus. To date, it’s been challenging in the West End to secure more spacious housing that is affordable for families who need more than a 1-bedroom-sized apartment.

“Now, there is a lot of potential here with laneway housing,” he said. “This can be transformative and revitalize housing in the West End, especially for families.  I’d like to see continued support from the City.”

Another key point Brent stressed is that the Plan makes clear that rezoning is only approved in 4 areas (other areas are protected), so people will know what to expect. And with such rezoning, investments will come through community amenity contributions (CACs). As described in the Plan, CACs will be able to funnel resources back to improve and renew existing recreational, cultural and social facilities.

“The areas where rezoning will occur are around key transportation hubs, which makes sense,” Brent said. ” And with investments through CACs, this can help institutions such as the Aquatic Centre and Gordon Neighbourhood House.”

The West End Community Plan also outlines a new purpose-built facility for QMUNITY, BC’s Queer Resource Centre, within Davie Village, to better support LGBTQ community members. Dara Parker, the Centre’s Executive Director, is delighted that QMUNITY was highlighted as a priority.

“We have been actively advocating for a new facility that is accessible and large enough to meet the needs of our community programming for twenty years, ” she said. “The new facility will be an inclusive hub for everyone in the queer community, including our allies and neighbourhood supporters.”

What about you? What impact do you think the West End Community Plan will have for your neighbourhood? We’d love to hear your comments!

Written by Community Journalist/GNH Blogger Anita Miettunen 

The Clean Team’s Collaborative Community Maintenance and Beautification Efforts

Over the past few months, a variety of community stakeholders have come together to develop a coordinated neighbourhood clean-up and maintenance schedule. In May 2013, the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) partnered with Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) to form The Clean Team. The Clean Team is composed of two crew-members who spend four hours every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday cleaning Davie, Denman, and Robson streets. The Clean Team also conducts routine litter and cigarette butt audits in the WEBIA area.

WEBIA and GNH are also working in partnership with other organizations such as the West End Cleanup (volunteer-based cleanup group), the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre, and the Downtown Community Court to ensure cleanup coverage of every area in the West End. These partner organizations help with the maintenance of alleyways, 311 reporting of illegal dumping, and graffiti removal. In addition to their regular cleanup efforts, the West End Cleanup and the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre participated in this year’s United Way and YWCA Days of Caring at Gordon Neighbourhood House along with visiting organizations such as Stantec and The University of British Columbia.

Here are some highlights of the work that these groups have been doing since May 2013:

  • Volunteer contributions. 165 volunteer hours on May 26, 2013 for the annual Keep Vancouver Spectacular Cleanup (West End edition) hosted at Gordon Neighbourhood House; three corporate Days of Caring with The Clean Team in September and October 2013 harnessing a total of 96 volunteer hours; 182 volunteer hours through the West End Cleanup from July to November 2013. A grand total of 433 volunteer hours since May 2013.
  • 3-1-1 reporting of illegal dumping. The Clean Team and its partners are working with the City of Vancouver to report illegal dumping in alleyways.
  • Routine graffiti removal. Coordinated by the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre with paint and supplies provided through the Community Paint Out program at the City of Vancouver. Over 200 tags removed, 4 large paint-out events, and 138 volunteer hours from January to September 2013.
  • Cigarette butt audit. In collaboration with a cigarette butt recycling pilot spearheaded by the City of Vancouver and Terracycle, The Clean Team conducted a weekly count of cigarette butts on the 1100 block of Davie St. from October 17 to December 12, 2013. Public support for this kind of pilot program (the first in North America) was granted significant momentum after a highly successful cigarette butt buyback initiative coordinated by the West End Cleanup at Car Free Day on June 16, 2013. The cigarette butt receptacles will remain on downtown city streets until May 2014, at which time the City of Vancouver will consider the long-term viability of this model. The Clean Team plans to conduct another 6-week audit spanning from early-March to mid-April 2014.
  • Power washing and leaf removal. During the months of November and December 2013, WEBIA coordinated leaf removal and power washing on West End commercial streets.

How you can help:

  • Support our regular volunteer base and volunteer cleanup events with vouchers for products or services offered at your business or organization.
  • Join a cleanup event or host one yourself that we can support with supplies.
  • Make your neighbours aware of the new cigarette butt receptacles on Davie Street.
  • Report illegal dumping and graffiti to the City of Vancouver’s call centre 3-1-1.

If you would like to learn more about The Clean Team and related neighbourhood cleanup activities please email

This is a special to the GNH Blog by Community Initiatives Supervisor, Samuel Mickelson, with input from our partners at the West End Business Improvement Association, the West End Cleanup, the West End Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre, and the Downtown Community Court.

bill farmer_3


Hotel Vancouver

Food Scraps Drop Spots: Making Good Use of Good Waste

Maris Pavelson feels good at the end of his shift at Gordon Neighborhood House (GNH), staffing the Food Scraps Drop Spot on Tuesday evenings.  Not only is he helping to reduce the greenhouse gas methane that is created by food rotting in the landfill, the food scraps he collects are trucked out by local recycling company Recycling Alternative to be made into nutrient-rich compost for local gardens.

“But most of all it’s fun,” he says.  “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”

GNH launched their 10 am-12 noon Saturday Drop Spot in November, 2011, in partnership with Recycling Alternative, the West End Neighbourhood Food Network (WENFN), and the Vancouver Farmers Markets.  While the City of Vancouver offers curbside food scraps pick-up and composting service to single-family resident homes, until the Drop Spots were launched the majority of West Enders and others who live in condos, apartment buildings, and co-ops were left out–half of the city.  Randy Helten of WENFN estimates that the 45,000 people living in the West End alone produce around 27 million kilograms of food waste a year.

The first pilot project Drop Spot–begun in August, 2011 at the West End Farmers Market, initiated by Recycling Alternative and the Farmers Market, and funded by a $10,000 Greenest City Fund grant from the City of Vancouver– was instantly popular, as nearly 200 people dropped off their organics on a busy Saturday.

“When we were wrapping up the first pilot, people were asking us, “What are we going to do when you close the market? ” says Louise Schwarz, co-founder of Recycling Alternative.  The perfect partner to pick up the slack was Gordon Neighborhood House, a mere two blocks from the West End Market site at Nelson Park.  “GNH is a natural place for people to come to bring their food scraps,” says Samuel Mickelson, Community Initiatives Supervisor.

Even with the introduction of a $2 donation that pays for transportation, delivery of the food scraps to Enviro-smart Organics composting facility in Delta, and the disposal fee, the Saturday drop spot at GNH was a success.  So much so that a second day was proposed, and Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 began in 2013. Together they receive up to 150 drops per week.

For Maris, life in the trash trenches includes checking for banned substances such as cat litter or Styrofoam, noting each droppers’ postal code to see how far they have travelled, offering hand sanitizer and paper towels to those soiled by their exertions, and engaging in conversations related to recycling and our local food cycle.

Currently there are six Drop Spots: the West End, Kitsilano, and Trout Lake Farmers Markets run in the summer; GNH and the Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey stadium take over in the winter; while the West End Community Centre operates year-round.  This schedule will continue past the Metro Vancouver ban on all organic material going to the landfill in January, 2015, as Schwarz thinks it unlikely the City and independent contractors will have organized curbside collection of food scraps for all Multi-Unit Residential Buildings by that time.

With nearly 30,000 drops to date, the Drop Spots have diverted 200,000 pounds of food scraps otherwise destined for the landfill, helping make Vancouver a greener city.

No wonder Maris Pavelson enjoys his work as a GNH Drop Spot volunteer.


Written by Linda Lawson
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger


Maris Pavelson and Chie Watanabe, two core volunteers for the Tuesday night Drop Spot.


Louise Schwarz of Recycling Alternative.

Powerful Ideas From GNH’S First ‘Community Conversation’ on Food

Getting people together to share ideas can be exhilarating and productive, especially when the topic is so central to our lives as food.  That was the topic of a Community Conversation held at Gordon Neighbourhood House on January 14, 2014, which I had the pleasure of co-facilitating along with GNH Community Food Advocate Andrew Christie.  We thank the roughly 40+ neighbours who attended and shared their experiences in trying to access good food and eat in ways that are healthy both for individuals and for community.  Thank you as well to UBC Bachelor of Social Work practicum students Emily Melzer, Fibby Pan, and Markayla Benstead, who helped record participants’ ideas.

And there were a lot of ideas on the table.  Reflecting on the experience later, Andrew Christie summarized what he saw as the main themes – and he did this so clearly and articulately that I’m going to quote him directly.


“The first key theme I saw was the idea of affordability of healthy food. A couple of folks mentioned that the concepts of “Healthy” and “Organic” have become conflated, leading to a perception that a healthy diet necessitates paying higher prices for food.  The reverse also seems to hold — that a perception exists that eating products branded “organic” is necessarily a healthy choice.  We spoke briefly about the idea that “conventional” produce has the same nutritional value as its organic counterparts, and the importance of understanding, when shopping for food, that nutritional balance and diversity are more important than the word “Organic” on a label.


“The second key concept I identified was the idea of a “Local” food system.  Local, in the sense that the food participants wanted to consume is grown somewhere near here, but also local in the sense that they don’t want to have to travel a great distance to obtain it, and local in the sense that they want to purchase it from businesses based here in our community, rather than larger companies based in Arkansas or California.


“The third theme was the idea of “Time”–and this is a strong one for me, because I’ve heard this in a number of discussions I’ve been part of, and I think it needs more consideration when we frame policy and projects.

Planning meals, shopping for ingredients, preparing food, and eating food all take time, which is at a great premium for many people.  Coupled with the need for all of these activities to take place in a social context, it creates an impossible task.  Yes, we all can see the health and environmental benefits of preparing meals from scratch ourselves and sharing them with our friends and families, but when exactly can we do that? I know I’m lucky if I get the chance to prepare a meal for a friend once over the course of a week–and that’s not because people are unwilling to let me cook for them. And I don’t have kids, or work long hours, like many people.


“Finally, I want to touch on the idea of skills and education.  The participants in the discussion identified a knowledge and skils gap which prevented folks from accessing healthy food, and though I can see the validity of the argument, I think we need to be very careful not to paint with too broad a brush here.  It’s a common misconception that people who experience poverty do so because they are undereducated, or somehow lack knowledge or skills, and if only we could train people, their problems would be solved.  This runs contrary to the realities many people experience.  Though a skills gap exists with respect to cooking and nutrition, I have trouble correlating that gap with poverty, and believe that this gap affects people regardless of their economic status.”

Thank you, Andrew, for those powerful ideas.   We plan to hold more Community Conversations in the near future, and welcome your comments

A special to the Gordon Neighbourhood House Blog by writer and educator Eleanor Boyle,






Seniors Community Planning Table: Spotlight on Housing

Once a month, the Seniors Community Planning Table-West End gathers at Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) to exchange information and discuss issues critical to West End seniors. The 2013 sessions wrapped up at a meeting on December 6, which had over 35 attendees representing a cross-section of local residents, and seniors’ services and advocacy groups.

After an overview of fall activities, an open discussion followed on seniors’ priorities for 2014. Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator, reported on preliminary results from a seniors’ needs assessment survey, which had over 200 responses. Many concerns were highlighted regarding seniors’ housing security in the face of potential economic evictions and displacement of seniors who rent.

The high cost of rent is affecting many West End seniors. Over 68% of seniors rent their homes in this neighbourhood, compared with a citywide average of about 34%. There are increasing worries about seniors being driven out of the West End because of unaffordability. It isn’t hard to image the huge distress such displacement would have on a senior’s health and wellbeing.

Lorraine Copas, Executive Director at BC’s Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC), also spoke about SPARC’s new initiative, the Digital Stories project. In partnership between SPARC BC, GNH, and the West End Seniors Network, with funding support from the United Way, this project’s aim is to gather seniors’ voices on pressing housing matters. According to Lorraine, “Policy makers need to hear these stories.” Statistics are indicating many concerns about seniors housing insecurity. By also hearing seniors’ stories, it’s hoped this data will come alive and raise awareness about the impact on seniors if decision-makers don’t pay attention to what is really important.

When I contacted Lorraine in January for an update, she was eager to remind everyone about the Digital Stories project and its goals: “to create a digital story that helps to draw attention to some of the specific challenges that seniors face in finding and keeping housing that they can afford.”

As Lorraine explained, if you are a senior or know of seniors experiencing housing stress, worrying about paying your rent, or facing the challenges of moving from the West End due to unaffordable rent increases, you are invited to get involved in the Digital Stories project. You can help to raise awareness about the types of housing stress West End seniors are facing. If you want to be part of the Digital Stories project and have a story to share, please let us know.  You can call Lorraine Copas at (604) 718-7736 or send an email  You can also let Sharon Isaak or Ana Maria Bustamente at GNH know that you are interested in participating. You can help us work together to make change happen!

The next Seniors Community Planning Table-West End meeting will be at Gordon Neighbourhood House on Friday, January 31, from 10:00am – 12noon. Please join us!

For more information please contact:

Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator

Ana Maria Bustamente, GNH Community Developer

Written by Anita Miettunen, GNH Community Journalist/Blogger, with input from Lorraine Copas.




The slogan of our schools is “bring your money”: How about teaching our children to care for others through the power of democracy

My twins started kindergarten last September. By the end of the year, they had taken part in two food bank drives and multiple bake sales to raise money for all sorts of good causes. I am glad that the school is fostering a sense of social responsibility and that my children are thinking about others. However, I am concerned that the only solution they are learning to address issues of poverty and hunger is to donate. The slogan of our schools has become “bring your money.”

Where are the lessons about the structural causes of these societal problems and what our political institutions can do about them?

Almost 1 in 5 children live in poverty in BC, according to the 2013 Child Poverty Report Card released in November by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. That’s 153,000 children, an increase from last year that puts us back in the number one position with the worst child poverty rate in Canada. Not a great title to hold!

The rate is worse for children under 6, which is especially worrying because of the damaging impact of poverty on children’s early physical, social and cognitive development.

The statistics are dismal but the overwhelming response provides hope. Clearly, people are concerned about child poverty in our province and want to take action to address it. However, just like in our schools, our response is often to donate. In fact, BC is one of the most generous provinces in Canada in terms of giving to charity. And yet, BC’s child poverty rate has been the worst in Canada for nine of the last ten years.

Don’t get me wrong; giving to charity is necessary in this time of great need in order to address the immediate needs of people living in poverty. However, charities can only provide short-term relief that addresses the “downstream” symptoms and we need long-term solutions that go “upstream” to fix the root causes.

Food banks themselves are saying the same thing. In the 2013 HungerCount report, Food Banks Canada highlights that “the root of the need is low income.” Their recommendations look “upstream” and include government commitments to provide affordable housing, education and training, support for low-wage workers and increased “social assistance so that people can build self-sufficiency instead of being trapped in poverty.”

Food banks were, in fact, initially meant to be a temporary measure but they have now been around for over 30 years. They have become such a normal part of society that we never question their role and the extent to which they can address these big issues. We give year after year without wondering why children are still going hungry in BC.

Now the holiday season’s over, perhaps we should start asking that question and look to our government for answers.

When I talk to my children about these issues, I tell them that the government is a group of people that has the power and responsibility to make the “big rules” or “policies” that could really help children in poverty. I tell them that we vote for them to represent our concerns and they are (or should be) always interested in listening and making change for the good of all.

So let’s match our donations with an action. Here’s an idea to take to our provincial government. Most other places in Canada have a poverty reduction plan and they are already saving lives and money. BC needs a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines to really make a difference for families, communities and our province.

The government’s response to poverty continues to be a reliance on the BC Jobs Plan. However, most people in poverty already have a job, and almost 1 in 3 poor children live in families with at least one adult working full-time full-year.

Poverty is a heavy issue and we need everyone to share the weight. Giving to charity is the community stepping up and now we need to ask government to share the weight with us.

We are teaching our children to be charitable givers, and fostering social service from a very young age. Let’s also teach them to be democratic citizens and think about social justice by engaging with their government. At the same time, let’s learn that ourselves.


This is a special to the GNH blog by Trish Garner (Organizer, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition). Gordon Neighbourhood House has endorsed the work of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and supports the call for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for British Columbia.  BC remains one of only two Canadian provinces that lack a poverty reduction strategy.