Montage of growing resilience photos with people and gardens.

One of the ways that Covid-19 has influenced our lives is through disruption of our food systems. Supply chains were disturbed causing delays, processing plants were shut down, there was less donated food in the emergency food system, and restaurants stopped buying from local farms who were also short on labour at planting time. The empty shelves in the grocery stores were a reminder of our reliance on and vulnerability to this global system. But it has also been a catalyst for our inherent drive toward resilience!

Across the country and beyond, our instincts have been to nurture hope and positive action. People started baking bread and planting gardens. Neighbours started practicing mutual aid to make sure people had access to the food they need. The following examples and resources illustrate some of the things that neighbours, groups and communities are doing to take charge of their food supply and food security. Here at Building Resilient Neighbourhoods we believe these actions can and should continue to ensure our resilience to future shocks and everyday stresses within our communities. There are plenty of possible ways to improve resilience and equity in our food systems across households, communities and regions. Read on to learn more about different approaches and what you can do!

“The best way we can address food insecurity and long-term consequences of the pandemic is by creating hyperlocal responses that are rooted in mutual aid, collaboration, and a sense of shared risk and autonomy.” – Shane Bernardo, Co-founder of Food as Healing in Detroit, in YES Magazine, 2020/05/07

Households and Neighbours Get Growing, Harvesting & Preserving

Learn to Get Growing! A collaborative effort of several organizations in Greater Victoria is a great example of communities supporting food security with joint promotion of resources for people who want to get started to grow their own food. Resources range from the 75,000 edible plant starts grown by City of Victoria and distributed by local non-profits, to food garden kits to start your own garden, access to garden mentors and more. Check out the weekly garden guidance and regular video tips.

Purchasing starters at the local store.
(photo: Travis Paterson: Victoria News)

Make a Plan: Check out this Family Food Action Planfrom Transition Guelph for some great ideas on how you can develop a plan for your family to focus more on local food. 

Start a boulevard garden: Boulevard gardens are springing up in cities all across Canada, especially where the cost of living is high. Many municipalities have loosened their restrictions on planting on city property and have come up with guidelines for residents. There are numerous benefits to boulevard gardening, not to mention providing a local source of healthy food! 

Garden Pumpkin in the front yard by the sidewalk in Victoria.
Photo courtesy of City of Victoria

Get Chickens! This is a growing trend in countries around the world. Municipalities are relaxing their bylaws enabling people to have these relatively inexpensive pets, with benefits. In Victoria, BC you can test out chicken ownership by renting them first!  

Grow some Culture!  The Hua Foundation in Vancouver is one example of a community organization supporting the intersection of food security, equity and cultural identity. Check out their amazing resources such as this Beginner’s Guide to Growing Chinese Vegetables.  

Find a Community Garden near you. Community gardens have been growing in popularity due to their numerous benefits including environmental, health, well-being and food security. In BC they were deemed to be an essential service during the pandemic. Ontario has a provincial network of Community Gardens and in most other places they are easy to find through google – look for one nearest you, or start your own with these helpful steps.

Ideas for Condo and Apartment Living

Become a Container Gardener: Find out all you want to know about container gardening  if you have a patio or balcony.

Start a roof top garden with your neighbours:  These underutilized spaces can be ideal hot spots for growing food. There are lots of things to consider and this guide can help you get started.  

Get creative with small-space rental properties. Check out this “small rental unit case study  from an Australian couple for ideas in “Retrosuburbia: the Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future”

Graphic by Brenna Quinlan.

Share!

Share your Time: In Vancouver, a group of volunteers has been helping vulnerable seniors in Chinatown through ChinaTown Care Packages. They deliver fresh culturally-appropriate fruit, vegetables and staples to Chinese-speaking seniors who might otherwise not be able to access these during the pandemic. 

 Share your Fruit Trees: Fruit Tree Projects work with households and farmers who have excess fruit and match them with volunteers to pick. There is often a sharing agreement between the volunteer and the fruit tree owner, and sometimes also with the local food bank or other non-profit. These programs prevent waste and put more fresh and healthy food on people’s plates.  

Backyard/Garden sharing:There are many underutilized urban spaces and a growing recognition of the benefits to sharing this space: as an owner you get a share of the produce, the joy of seeing your land well utilized, less yard maintenance, and the forming of new friendships.  In Burnaby, BC, The Sharing Backyards Program connects people wanting to grow food with those who have available yard space that isn’t being fully utilized. 

Share your Tools: Tool Sharing programs formalize the age-old practice of borrowing from our neighbours. Tool sharing means everyone needs less stuff, and that those who do not have access to special equipment can still be a do- it -yourselfer! Many tool share groups also offer training by and for each other – sharing their skills as well.

Radishes rest in a bunch on a table.

Buy Local

Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program. This food distribution system enables consumers to support local agriculture and give farmers job security by pre-ordering a box for a year. Consumers get a share of fresh, healthy local produce at a fair price.  

Find a Good Food Box Program in your community: People pre-pay for a box (often weekly) of produce which will often come from a variety of farms and other suppliers, like  a group buying program. 

Join a bulk buying group where neighbours get together and buy from local farmers and producers. This can be done casually or more formally on-line such as The Now Buying Club in Vancouver.

Support your Farmers Market: Farm markets are searchable on-line in most communities and regions of Canada. Some provinces also offer farm market coupons or currency programs to support lower income families to access fresh and local products. 

A person rests a starter down in the earth in their garden.

Learn more and take action for healthy, resilient food systems

Check out “Planning for Food Security: A toolkit for the COVID-19 Pandemic” by BC First Nations Health Authority.  This toolkit has tons of ideas, templates and information on how you can make your community more food secure including sharing the wealth of the land, using food as medicine and navigating the food supply chain.

The BC Food Security Gateway is a great place to about food security opportunities and resources across BC.

Join Food Secure Canada’s Food Policy Action Plan in the context of COVID-19 : Growing Equity and Resilience  to support visionary and bold structural change, renewing the country’s food system in response to Covid-19.