In 2002 the recently formed Richmond Poverty Response Committee (RPRC) identified food security as a priority and the Food Security Task Force was established. Lead by Elaine Shearer of Family Services of Greater Vancouver, it also served as the Advisory Committee for Community Kitchens. By 2004-2005 the Food Security Task Force (RFSTF) had ten regularly active members and numerous others involved in its many activities and events. It was comprised of Richmond residents – many who had not previously participated in community committees – representing faith communities, students, nonprofit, and government agency staff members. An effective information network, it addresses and raises awareness on food security issues in Richmond by supporting present and future initiatives to promote local, sustainable food production that will increase access to nutritious foods for all residents.
The RFSTF made remarkable achievements on a limited budget through its first several years: canning projects; food security brochures and newsletter; a “Plant a row, Grow a row” flyer and free seeds for people who want to grow vegetables to donate to the Food Bank; promotion of the “Feed the body, Feed the mind” literacy and nutrition program for children ages 2-6 who attend the Food Bank; promotion of Community Kitchens, including two annual potluck events open to everyone in the community; and support for the Farmers Market in East Richmond. Much credit goes to the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing project, Richmond Food Bank Society, Family Services’ Community Kitchens and the East Richmond Healthy Community Project for leadership and support. Through networking and collaboration on new initiatives, it explored and created new resources previously not available to Richmond residents, with links to the work of the Vancouver Food Security Committee as well as the network of Lower Mainland Food Security coordinators.
Horizons broadened with the funding made available through The Richmond Community Food Action Initiative (CFAI) action plan and the Richmond Food System Assessment Report was funded by the Ministry of Health’s Smart Fund program, which allocates funds to municipalities in B.C. through regional health authorities. In 2006, Family Services of Greater Vancouver was the first Fiscal Host of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Smart Fund; Richmond Fruit Tree Project became the sponsoring society in 2007. The first project was a Richmond Food System Assessment Report and three-year action plan, which was developed collaboratively by community and agency participants at a two-day workshop in June 2006 at DeBeck House. One of the standing items on the action plan is to explore options to develop a food policy for Richmond. The Community Food Action Initiative Report was presented to the City Planning Committee in Feb 2007 and has helped to build stronger partnership relationship with the City of Richmond. Vancouver Coastal Health announced in February 2008 that it would continue $ 35,000 per year funding for Richmond up to 2010. To date, $135,000 has come to Richmond via the BC Ministry of Health.
A food action plan, based on the Richmond Food System Assessment Report, was presented to the Planning Committee in February 2007, pointing out that within the context of a global food crisis and the impacts of climate change, there is a need to work more closely with the City of Richmond to develop together a food security strategy – similar to other cities and municipalities in B.C. Proposed City Planning Committee actions to consider: Appoint a staff liaison to the Richmond Food Security Task Force; recognize an opportunity to work together to begin developing a food strategy for Richmond; allocate resources in the City’s 2009 budget for a City Food Security Coordinator.
Agency representatives and community members work towards local food security, include Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Kairos, Richmond Food Bank Society, Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond Family Place, Richmond Health Department (VCH), Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, Richmond School District, Terra Nova School Yard Project, Richmond Community Kitchens, Richmond Women’s Resource Centre, and Representatives of the City of Richmond.
In January 2007, the Food Security Task Force introduced an alternative concept of a sustainable food centre or park that could be located in the Garden City Lands and organized a Garden City Lands Forum at Kwantlen University that May, featuring speakers: Gary King (organic farmer and author), Kim Sutherland (Regional Agrologist, BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands), Alisa Smith (environmentalist and food activist, author of Hundred Mile Diet), and Ione Smith (agrologist and Special Projects Coordinator, Smart Growth BC).
Since 2005, the RFSTF has sponsored four successful Annual World Food Day celebrations, featuring information booths, local food prepared by Chef Ian Lai and students of the Northwest School of Culinary Arts, and music by local musicians. Over the years, it has set up booths at community festivals to inform citizens of the benefits of urban agriculture and produced a variety of brochures to promote local food security in Richmond. In 2007 it participated in the first two 10-Mile Diets and co-sponsored the first Field to Feast Tour with the Richmond Museum.
On Friday, February 29th and Saturday, March 1st, 2008 the RFSTF hosted Richmond’s first food security conference entitled the Food For All Dialogue. The conference attracted almost 200 participants over the 2 days and featured 28 speakers. Keynote speakers and workshops were held in the morning and after lunch; participants interacted in a World Café where ideas and visioning for the future were shared. Food was catered and wherever possible, sourced from local farms.
The RFSTF felt that education and awareness building around food security issues was the number one goal of the conference. The term “food security” is still not widely understood in the larger population so the idea behind the conference was to bring dynamic speakers into Richmond in order to spark dialogue around all the issues. It was anticipated that Friday would attract professionals working in Richmond from the City, Health Board, School District and non-profit groups while Saturday would be more attractive to the general public. In addition, it was hoped that the conference would engage local citizens to be more pro-active in food security issues and possibly agree to sit on the RFSTF.
In time for summer 2008, the RFSTF produced a Local Food Guide to promote Richmond farms, market stands, community gardens and U-picks, as well as receiving an Enterprising Nonprofits Grant to conduct a “Pocket Market” as a community economic development pilot project through the summer. This project was launched at the Steveston Salmon Festival July 1 by selling fresh local strawberries, and continued with weekly markets and an expanding range of produce at Richmond Hospital, St Alban’s Church, Garry Point Co-op, Knightsbridge Housing Complex, and in the fall at the Richmond Cultural Centre. Arzeena Hamir and Brian Campbell got the Pocket Markets up and running; including finding locations, promoting the markets, establishing a supply chain, building relationships across the spectrum from local farmers and local buyers, and setting up and actually running Pocket Markets. The markets were valuable feasibility studies in action that achieved two objectives as a social enterprise: educating and building good relationships with local farmers, and bringing fresh local produce at good prices to low-income people. The audit conducted by a Leadership Richmond – Next committee made valuable recommendations towards making Pocket Markets a financially sustainable enterprise.
At the November 13th 2008 Strategic Planning meeting at the Red Barn in Terra Nova Rural Park, the Food Security Task Force reflected on its many accomplishments: activities, education and information programs and materials, and its evolution into the strongest and most credible voice on food security in Richmond. There is nothing like it in most municipalities in the province. The combined force, strength and inspiration of the individuals and groups involved in this great success is now moving into higher level and longer term planning and policy development.
Theresa Harding, facilitator for the session, discerned a number of themes:
- a local food secure system, including a Food Charter, for Richmond
- development of a Sustainable Food System and Education Centre
- the importance of supporting organic food production and gardening and increasing allotment gardens and community gardening spaces
- supporting local farmers; developing a web based interactive food security presence to educate, connect, and extend the circle of people wanting to learn about and promote food secure activities locally and globally and
- the future of the Richmond Food Security Task Force.
Dialogue within and between the Richmond Poverty Response Committee (RPRC) and the Food Security Task Force and the need to find a new Fiscal Host/Sponsoring Society to administer funds, lead to the RFSTF seeking status as an independent society while remaining a member agency of the RPRC. The new society was incorporated February 19, 2009 and will hold the 2009 contract for CFAI funds with Vancouver Coastal Health. Founding Directors Georgina Patko, Aaron Stevens, Belinda Boyd, and Judy May will be supported by the new Food Security Action Committee – the former RFSTF.
Plans for the future include:
- refining the Pocket Market
- provide training to install and maintain community gardens
- develop a Richmond Mini Farm School with Kwantlen University
- increase support for local growers through agri-tourism in Richmond
- update the 2006 Food Assessment and
- develop a Richmond Food Charter
We welcome new members – agencies, citizens, etc – all ages.