A Thriving Food Hub in Gordon Head

The Greater Victoria Food Hub Strategy has been working on a pilot project in the Gordon Head area to look at the ‘what, who, when, where, how’ food access and food literacy can be bolstered in this underserved neighbourhood. The Food Hub Strategy set out to discover that there is substantial energy within a collaborative group creating lots of momentum in the Gordon Head/University Heights neighbourhood entitled the Food Skills Connection. We are excited to shine the spotlight on this amazing crew of food security champions!

The Food Skills Connection - a community collaboration between the UVSS Food Bank & Free Store, Shelbourne Community Kitchen, Community Living Victoria, and Community Cabbage - works together to develop and implement inclusive, respectful, consent-based, and accessible food skills workshops. They utilize food literacy themes including growing food, cooking food, preparing food, how to use specific kitchen tools (such as knife skills), accessing food, and more!

At each step of their workshop ideation process, from information gathering, to development, to implementation and evaluation, the team works to embody values of inclusivity, respect, consent, and accessibility into all that they do. While the Food Skills Connection members and organizations hold knowledge about particular areas of food in/security, they recognize that each of us has learning to do. There is no one experience of food in/security, and we understand it is felt differently depending on the intersections of class, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, etc. There are so many factors that go into how we feel food in/security, how we experience it, and how we deal with it. Because of this, they encourage group sharing and learning during the workshop planning and facilitating, because they know that everyone has valuable knowledge and experiences to bring to the table, regardless of level of food skills and food literacy. “Food nourishes us physically and culturally; sharing food is the basis of community”  says Kaia Bryce, Food Skills Connection member and Community Cabbage Coordinator. We couldn’t agree more!

“All workshops must use as many easy, healthy, cheap ingredients as possible” says Courtney Striker, UVSS Food Bank and Free Store Coordinator. “The point of the workshops is to have participants be able to feasibly find and use ingredients and food items in their communities and home. Therefore, we try to make sure we only use ingredients that would be easy to find and cheap to purchase. With the health focus, we make sure that all recipes use ingredients that promote healthy options.” For example, Snack attack substituted a bit of honey and applesauce, rather than sugar or flavoring. The team strives to strike a balance between promoting healthier options, but also making sure the healthier options are accessible and feasible to everyone.  All of the workshops are held at locations within the Shelbourne/Uvic/Tolmie region that are easy to get to by bus, have bike racks, and have adequate parking for cars. Most workshops are hosted at community kitchens at nearby churches and the Shelbourne Community Kitchen.

Workshop themes to date have included:

·       Snack Attack! Learning How to Make Healthy, Inexpensive, Easy Snacks to Get You Through Your Day! This workshop is all about learning how to make easy, healthy, and cheap snacks to take to school/work/knitting club/the bar/wherever really. Snacks made include: energy bars, salad-in-a-jar and muffins.

·       One Pot All Ya Got! Learning How To Make Healthy, Easy, Hearty Meals Only Using One Pot! Learn how to make easy and delicious meals with just one pot. Recipes include a savory curry chicken lentil soup, a delicious vegetarian pasta, and a sweet fruit crisp to tie the evening together!

·       Mystery Food Box: What Can You Make With What You Have? This workshop looks at how to make good tasting, healthy meals out of food items that can be hard to pair together or need-to-be-used asap!

The next workshop is the “Garden Party Workshop - Put a Plant In It!”, a hands on workshop to learn how to plant and care for container gardens. This workshop is happening Wednesday, May 31st at 3:30pm at Community Living Victoria. Please register by emailing foodskillsconnection@gmail.com

For further information or how to get involved, please see: https://foodskillsconnection.wordpress.com/

By Alex Harned, Food Hub Strategy Coordinator