This month, the Vancouver Park Board approved a proposal for a community food forest in Burrard View Park. The Vancouver Urban Food Forest (VUFF)––a collaboration between Refarmers, Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, Lettuce Harvest and many others––will bring a community-based, intergenerational and cross-cultural knowledge sharing space to the Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood.
The garden promised to include a variety of annual and perennial plants, an edible food forest full of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, along with an Indigenous medicine wheel garden, and community gathering space where people could hold workshops.
One of the key considerations of the proposal was the location within the park. Park Board staff had originally recommended the southeast corner as the most suitable site for VUFF’s needs.
That location, however, was met by opposition from a neighbourhood association that believed that the food forest would displace and disrupt existing park users in the original location. As a result, Park Board requested that staff consider an additional location.
After nearly two years of advocacy and an additional round of community consultation, staff again recommended the southeast location for the Commissioners approval.
As part of our Watch Council program, our Project Coordinator, Clara Prager, called in to the Park Board meeting in support of VUFF, urging the commissioners to approve the south east location. Thanks to the hard work of many community members and advocates, the project was approved in the recommended location.
Here are three reasons why we’re celebrating this win.
Indigenous children, children of low-income parents, and children of people with disabilities are the people that currently have the least access to parks in the entire city. The passing of this project ensures a playground right beside the food forest that will enable low-income caregivers, who may not otherwise have had the luxury of getting a babysitter, to enjoy the health and social benefits of spending time outdoors while their kids play nearby.
Because of the location of this project, individuals with disabilities, for example, someone who uses mobility aids, or who has chronic pain, people with vision impairment, those who may need the privacy of a washroom to check on health equipment, or to take a breather from a social situation, will now be closer to a washroom so that they can more fully participate in VUFF.
The legacy of colonialism means that Indigenous families may be disproportionately affected by disability. Moving the park to the south east location means that not only will these caregivers have access to this park, but so will their children.
By approving the park in the southeast location, the Park Board is hanging a giant welcome sign to these families, and these kids, to visit this park.
2. Food Security
We run an initiative called the Hot Pink Paper Campaign, which ensures the priorities that matter to people who experience systemic oppression are on the agenda during and after municipal elections. One of the top priorities that has been raised by the community organizations and service providers that we’ve spoken to is food insecurity, which disproportionately impacts women and girls.
The proposed food forest is the epitome of the Local Food Systems Action Plan (LFSAP). By approving this project, the Park Board has shown their tangible commitment to this inspiring plan and given us hope that they are keeping food systems on the forefront of their agendas.
3. Indigenous Food Sovereignty
The passing of this project is in line with the first goal of the LFSAP to “Centre Indigenous Voices in Food Systems to Honour the Teaching that ‘Food is Medicine.’”
The project has been led by Indigenous women, centers traditional knowledge, and includes a traditional medicine wheel and space for cultural programming. This project will increase the incredibly low .oo2% of park land that Indigenous peoples currently have in this city for food-related use.
It has the potential to act as a template for other urban food forests in Vancouver and beyond in order to continue increasing Indigenous food sovereignty. The Park Board's approval of this community food forest will have ripple effects for the entire city in years to come.
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