Big Builds in the Food Forest & protecting community food assets

Happy August Everyone! 

This Summer has flown by for our food justice team and we have made some positive progress in the Norquay Food Forest and in our Anti-gentrification & Food Asset protections work.

A hand holding an apple in the Food Forest
Early apple harvest this year at the Norquay Food Forest!

Rooftop Garden Volunteer Drop-ins are back 

The rooftop garden has been waiting patiently all season for some TLC and we are officially ready to welcome our volunteers back to the space for drop-ins. Our first day back will be Thursday, August 19th, from 4-7pm at the Collingwood Neighborhood house rooftop garden! Feel free to stop by to play in the soil and nibble some kale.

Food Forest Updates 

Our team and dedicated volunteers have been busy building a Community Seed and Seedling Library!

The seed library shelf at the Food Forest
pictured: seed library with caption “the norquay food forest seed library is up and running!”

This Library will stand at the south-west corner of the Norquay Food Forest and house seeds and seedlings so that everyone can select and share veggie seeds or flower seeds at no cost. We Have added in additional shelves for seedlings and plant starts to get things going for community members who may be interested in gardening but need a little help getting started! 

The seed Library should be fully finished by the 10th of August, 2021! Please be considerate of others and take only as many seeds as you need, rather than full seed packets. We will supply small envelopes to assist you with this! 

Our team has been so fortunate to receive help from a group of Ocean Wise students to put up a new “Home Mural” at the food forest. 

This Mural was created by Aly Dela Cruz Yip, as a reflection of the land’s rich history as a complex system of waterways prior to European settlement and colonization;

It is a love-letter to the community, celebrating the strength and humanity of the predominantly racialized working class. The Mural highlights the presence of non-human animals that share the land with us, acknowledging the ways the land has remained wild. 

This mural was put up in advance of our next big build – a 4 Coastal Indigneous-Styled Canoe Garden! This garden has 4 directional cedar canoes that will be our newest garden beds for medicines. We received cultural and design input from Simon Winadzi James and Pat Calihou Metis Artist on this. 

A wooden canoe garden at Cook Elementary School. The canoes are connected to a centre and radiate in four directions.
pictured above is the Cook Elementary School’s four directional canoe garden which is a larger version of the canoe garden that is soon to be build at the food forest.

Indigenous Artist Simon Winadzi James (Kwak wakw ‘wakw) will be joining us at the Food Forest on August 23rd to supervise installation as well as do some storytelling and a community wood craft activity.

This leads me to our upcoming event, The Creative Garden Party, August 23rd, from 4-7pm. We will be celebrating our accomplishments as a community and these new additions to the space. This event is in collaboration with the J Peachy Gallery and The Red Fox Creative Cafe. There will be art, music, food, and so much joy to share! 

So mark your calendars for August 23rd, 4-7pm, at the Norquay food forest. 

Anti-gentrification & Food Asset protection Updates

Back in June we posted a blog about The Joint Housing and Food Security Crisis. It was announced earlier this summer that a 32-storey, 293-unit, mixed-use building was proposed to be built on Joyce Street in place of our communities important cultural food assets. 

Not only would these cultural food assets be erased, but the new building will contribute to the inapproachable real estate prices that are inhibiting many community members from accessing secure housing. If these real estate trends continue, the Collingwood neighbourhood will be facing the displacement of local cultural food assets coupled with the displacement of local community members. 

Vancouver does have policies to protect cultural assets, so why are these stores at risk? Cultural assets are more than just the spaces defined by the city. How the city has identified spaces and places as “cultural” seems to be perpetuating the ongoing displacement of ethnic communities. The map below highlights the designated spaces that the city has deemed to be a cultural space.

A map of Vancouver of cultural assets in different neighbourhoods

However, what the city fails to recognize, and what our team is arguing, is that Cultural spaces can be mom & pop grocery stores that sell culturally relevant foods. They are restaurants that act as community hubs for families, friends, and activists. As it stands, the city data does not consider these intangible interactions within public space outside of what is traditionally seen as cultural work.

City approved cultural assets are overall located in Vancouver’s downtown. These facilities mostly house spaces for artists and performers and are infamously unaffordable. Compare these amenities with a map of where tagalong speakers live in vancouver, as seen below.

A map of Vancouver where Tagalog speakers live

Vancouver has defined “heritage businesses” as “a business that is shaped by values from a shared past that is recognized and deemed important by the communities of people who frequent the business and/or the area” (proposed definition by LOCO BC, 2017). The Filipino Community is continuing to vocalize their demands and these businesses are currently still in operation. 

There is no date set for the next meeting with the city regarding this application.

We are Hiring ! 

Are you passionate about Food Justice in our community? Come join our team! 

Job openings:

Community Food Liaison: part-time, permanent  

Food Hub Coordinator: part-time, term certain  

A New Dad’s Reflection on the Joint Housing and Food Security Crisis

The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood. – Josh Braby

On a typical weekday evening at Gaston Park, in the East Vancouver Collingwood neighbourhood, you’re likely to see some combination of young children playing as they wait for their parents to come pick them up from school, a group of teenagers shooting hoops while their friends hangout on the sidelines, a game of catch between a parent and their child, sunbathers, a couple friends kicking the soccer ball around, a game of cricket, dogs playing fetch, and so on. Gaston is just one of the many parks in the Collingwood neighbourhood and chances are they’ll all be filled with families and friends interacting as you walk by. The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood.

At Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, we promote equitable access, intercultural learning and community leadership around food, including sustainable growing practices, local food, food security, diverse food traditions, and healthy eating in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. So why am I writing about housing? Well recently in the Collingwood neighbourhood the issues of food justice and affordable housing merged (as they tend to do) when the City of Vancouver announced that it had received a rezoning application for a 32-storey, 293-unit, mixed-use building on Joyce Street which would almost certainly replace a row of important cultural food assets in the neighbourhood. Not only would these cultural food assets in the neighbourhood be squeezed out, but the new building will likely contribute to already unrealistic real estate prices in the neighbourhood squeezing out many of the current inhabitants. 

Josh Braby and his dog Shilo in the Food Forest
IMAGE: Josh Braby (right) and his dog Shilo (left)

According to Stats Canada, the average (pre-pandemic) income in Vancouver is $52,000 and the average Vancouver house price is now over $1,300,000, which is 25 times the average income. In the Collingwood neighbourhood specifically, the cost of a two bedroom condo is approximately $700,000 or 13 times the average Vancouver income. The brand new condo development near the Joyce Collingwood Skytrain station that will be finished later this year has listed unit prices ranging from $540,000 for a one-bedroom 400 sq ft condo, to $1,350,000 for a 1400 sq ft three-bedroom condo. No wonder a recent Canadian poll found that 36% of folks under the age of 40 have given up on the possibility of home ownership.

Rennie Marketing Group of Vancouver estimates that almost 90% of young people applying for mortgages in Vancouver are getting financial assistance from their parents. A recent report from Mortgage Professionals Canada says $2.8-billion was withdrawn in 2020 for the purpose of transferring money to a family member to buy a house. In other words, financial support from family is effectively a prerequisite for young people to be able to enter the local housing market.

If this trend continues the Collingwood neighbourhood will not only witness the cultural displacement of local food assets but also local community members, and ultimately community as a whole.

Josh Braby is a neighbour in the Renfrew Collingwood community. He has been supporting environmental and Indigenous food restoration work at the Norquay Food Forest since 2020 as well as volunteering as a key advisory member on the Renfrew Collingwood Food Advisory Board. Josh is a worker, renter, and student on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish & Tsliel-Waututh territories. Josh cares deeply about the cultural preservation of the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood and hopes it can remain family friendly for future generations.”


Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01  Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas

A “Just Recovery for All” Must Include Migrant Workers

Graphic image of three workers wearing aprons and in work uniforms

Each year thousands of migrant workers emigrate from the global South in search of employment. Tens of thousands of migrant workers across the province work in our grocery stores, as cleaners, health care workers, child care workers, truckers, construction workers and farm workers.

Canadian imperialism and corporate interests have, and continue to shape the socio-economic conditions which stimulate this transnational movement of labour. Through the imposition of neoliberal politics under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we know that locally produced goods in Mexico have and continue to be supplanted by cheaper foreign-imports. The resulting decline of local agriculture has created high levels of poverty and unemployment among subsistence farmers, forcing them to seek work outside the country, often times in the US or Canada.

When those who are displaced from work in their homelands arrive in Canada, it is not uncommon to experience psychological abuse, unsafe working conditions and multiple barriers to accessing justice. The maltreatment of migrant workers is compounded by precarious legal status, and limited ability to gain permanent residence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which our communities, and our provincial economy depend on migrant workers who lack permanent resident status and, as a result, lack access to basic rights and services they deserve. 

We urge the province of British Columbia to respond to the Migrant Workers Centre (“MWC”) priorities for a Just Recovery for All. These measures remain pertinent to the fight for the rights of migrant workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Priorities for Migrant Workers for a Just Recovery for All

1. Expand the BC Provincial Nominee Program to include workers in “entry-level and semi-skilled” (ELSS) jobs in health care, child care, agriculture, janitorial services, retail, and construction that is open to workers regardless of immigration status in Canada.

2. Ensure that all workers in BC can enroll in the Medical Services Plan and access health care regardless of immigration status.

3. Ensure adequate staffing and resources for the Employment Standards Branch to proactively enforce the provisions of the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act, including random, unannounced inspections of workplaces that employ migrant workers.

4. Ensure that essential workers including farm workers, sitters, residential care workers, night attendants, and live-in home support workers are protected with respect to rights such as the hourly minimum wage, statutory holiday pay and overtime pay by repealing regulatory exclusions for these occupations under the Employment Standards Act.

Introducing New Members of the Food Justice Team: Melissa and Stef!

 Melissa West Morrison and Stef Urloiu in the food forest

IMAGE: Melissa West Morrison (left), Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor, and Stef Urloiu (right), Food Justice Intern.

Hey everyone, 

We are excited to introduce you to our new Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor and Food Justice Intern for this summer: Melissa and Stef! 

Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor: Melissa West Morrison (pronouns: she/her)

“With one foot in cedar and another in bamboo, Melissa is ‘Namgis and Chinese. She is joining the Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice Team as the Indigenous Foodlands & Urban Agriculture Contractor at Collingwood Neighborhoods House. Melissa supports CNH’s Rooftop Garden, Indigenous Food Forest, Cheyenne and Collingwood Community Gardens and land-based community-led workshops. With a passion for community-bridge building and land-based education, Melissa will be facilitating and supporting opportunities for relationship building, knowledge sharing, and learning between Indigenous Food Sovereignty leaders and community members. She facilitates educational and research needs related to Indigenous food security while increasing knowledge of and access to traditional plants and foods.

Her research focuses include Indigenous land-based learning, Indigenous feminism, law and decolonial methodologies. On a life-long journey of learning the language of plants, Melissa is driven by community-led approaches. She is a Community Artist and UBC Alumni. Melissa’s work is rooted in facilitating educational experiences that centers on supporting self-determining and sustainable communities in the revitalization through a reconnection with the land.”

Contact Details: 

Working Days: Mondays & Tuesdays 

Food Justice Intern: Stef Urloiu (pronouns: she/they) 

“Stef Urloiu is a white transfeminine settler of Romanian, Bulgarian, and Armenian ancestry, who has been living as an uninvited guest on the stolen homelands of the xwməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh peoples since 2019. She is currently working on her degree in conservation at the University of British Columbia and has four years of experience in community organizing as well as a background in ecological restoration, native plant horticulture, and youth programming. Stef just finished her work placement with the Environmental Youth Alliance and is extremely thrilled to join Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice and help ensure access to sustainable, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods for the Renfrew-Collingwood Neighbourhood.”

Contact Details:

Working Days: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays  

Reflections on Earth Day

Graphic image that says that Earth Day must be Anti-Racist

Happy Earth Day from Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice.

To truly affirm a commitment to environmental stewardship this Earth Day, we must oppose the destructive and inhuman practices endemic to colonialism, white supremacy, and capitalist production.

Climate justice, and transformative food politics must be engaged in multiple, intersectional battles. These initiatives must support communities which have historically, and which continue to experience systemic oppression and centre the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in reimagining the future of our food systems.