Food for Thought: Highlights from the West End Food Festival

The West End Food Festival recently marked an important milestone on Vancouver’s community calendar. Over four days in early October, this inaugural event celebrated and explored sustainable food culture in the West End. And at its heart was the partnership developed between Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) and the West End Neighbourhood Food Network.

The Festival kicked off on Friday, October 4th at dinnertime, as an enthusiastic crowd gathered in the park in front of Gordon Neighbourhood House. The area quickly buzzed with activity. Amidst the display tables and Judy Kenzie’s colourful Strathcona 1890 Truck Farm (a pick-up truck with a mini vegetable garden flourishing in its back!), friends and neighbours mingled while passersby stopped to chat. Everyone eagerly lined up to try the mouth-watering treats generously contributed by local food vendors.

Food samples included savoury pulled-pork pretzels from Shamrock Alley; creamy squash curry from Whole Foods; and tasty appetizers from Seventeen89. Visitors could also check out displays from Strathcona 1890 Urban Seed Collection and Costco. And in the background, Drew Sexsmith’s blend of folksy mandolin warmed the crowd.

With the goal of building awareness about local food issues, a rich variety of activities continued throughout the weekend. Head chef and food security coordinator at GNH, Andrew Christie, spoke passionately about the success of Saturday’s Community Kitchen event:

“We had a fantastic turn-out of diverse participants from our community, ranging in age from their 20s to 70s. About half didn’t speak English. At times the kitchen was a tight squeeze but it was all a huge success.”

It was truly a highlight when these community cooks sat down together to share the delicious meal they had learned to cook from scratch: nutritious vegetarian and meat-based chili and home-made corn bread. And as planned, they had also made enough to serve the public later that day at the Tin Pan Chef Competition.

On Saturday night, the community room at GNH steamed and sizzled in friendly competition. Over 40 attendees dropped by to watch the Tin Pan Chef cook-off between two community teams, made up of chefs Dixie Pidgeon and Monica Ghosh, and their assistants Devon Gregoire and Ewa Gersin. Their challenge was to create an appealing and tasty meal in just one hour from the unknown contents of a sealed box donated by the Vancouver Food Bank.

It was humbling to watch what came out of the Food Bank box; and what these talented teams created. As the minutes ticked off, excitement mounted while the chefs sweated and coped with the unexpected (including a brief power outage for one team!). Finally, community volunteers on the judging panel had their own challenge of declaring a winner. It was almost too close to call as both teams cooked up amazing creations that included tuna burgers, vegetable soup, coleslaw, veggie cakes, latkes and fritters.

Events continued through Sunday, October 6th and included a Community Potluck. On Monday evening, the Festival wrapped up with an insightful Community Panel Discussion on Food Insecurity. Speakers on the diverse panel included Dr. Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus of UBC School of Social Work; Jean Swanson, author and social justice activist; Pardeep Khrod, Marketing Manager of Quest food exchange; Fraser Stuart, welfare recipient; and Jennifer Allan, founder of Jen’s Kitchen.

With the importance of community and food issues high on his list of priorities, Gordon Neighbourhood House’s Executive Director, Paul Taylor, neatly summarized the Festival’s concluding event:

“Gordon Neighbourhood House is pleased to bring our friends and neighbours in the community together to participate in discussions around barriers to accessing food and nutritional vulnerability. The evening’s discussion also focused on the roles individuals, groups/organizations and the government can play in challenging food insecurity.”

Reflecting on the success of the first annual West End Food Festival, community members can celebrate knowing how much was achieved in just a short time. The Festival was a great opportunity for fostering broader neighbourhood participation and dialogue on important food security and sustainability issues.  It’s inspiring to know that here in the West End, by working together, those community discussions are already starting to happen.

Written by Anita Miettunen 

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Tin Pan Chef participants Monica Ghosh and Dixie Pidgeon are all smiles after an hour of hard work.
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Photos courtesy of Florence Hwang 


West End Food Festival – Building Community Through Food

With colder weather approaching, access to fresh and healthy food will be an increasing concern for many of our neighbours. In order to raise awareness around the importance of food on the social fabric of our community, Gordon Neighbourhood House and the West End Neighbourhood Food Network have teamed up to present Vancouver’s inaugural West End Food Festival.

This four-day event runs from October 4th to 7th and will feature food samples from local vendors and restaurants, a potluck dinner, a competition to create nutritious meals from Food Bank offerings, as well as other events and activities. The events will take place either at Gordon Neighbourhood House or local venues.

While many Canadians consider food a necessity and a right, the ability to afford and obtain nutritious and sufficient food is not equally available to everyone. Many of society’s most vulnerable—including our children and elders—don’t get enough to eat and suffer from poor nutrition. Although many are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving on October 14th, for others it is just another day of scrounging for a way to fill their stomachs.

Monday’s concluding discussion, “Is Food a Right? A Panel on Issues Around Access to Food,” will feature a cross-section of varying perspectives on food security. The panel will include Dr. Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus of UBC School of Social Work; Jean Swanson, author and social justice activist; Pardeep Khrod, Marketing Manager of Quest food exchange; Fraser Stuart, welfare recipient; and Jennifer Allan, founder of Jen’s Kitchen.

Gordon Neighbourhood house is committed to sharing foods that reflect the diversity of our community, city, country, and world and believes that food brings us together and can act as a vehicle for community-building. Read more about our food philosophy at http://gordonhouse.org/about/right-to-food/

For more information please visit the festival Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/440604082725988/ and follow Gordon Neighbourhood House on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.

 

Contact: Paul Taylor, Executive Director,
Gordon Neighbourhood House
paul@gordonhouse.org
604-683-2554, ext. 202
1019 Broughton Street (at Nelson)