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Food festival sprouts food security conversations, community

West End Food Fest offers everything from workshops to community feasts, cooking sessions, gardening tips and conversations about who picks our produce.

Paul Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House, visits one of the organization’s numerous community garden plots ahead of the annual West End Food Festival, which starts Thursday.

David P. Ball / Metro Order this photo

Paul Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House, visits one of the organization’s numerous community garden plots ahead of the annual West End Food Festival, which starts Thursday.

Paul Taylor steps around a raised planter brimming with nearly-ripe cherry tomatoes behind an apartment block in Vancouver’s West End, proudly describing how neighbourhood children actually planted and tended the urban crop.

“The other day, they harvested bags and bags of the cherry tomatoes they'd planted,” the Gordon Neighbourhood House executive director told Metro during a garden tour on Wednesday. “The kids planted them here with our farmer and checked on them regularly.

“If kids can grow anything, they'll eat anything.”

Vancouverites love to talk about food: favourite eateries, farm market finds, organic and local cuisine.

Starting today, food-lovers have a chance to dig beneath the surface at the West End Food Festival — which offers everything from cooking and growing workshops to community conversations about migrant farm labour.

And, of course, lots of eating, Taylor promised.

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“It's not just a food party or an opportunity to come together to eat,” he explained. “Food is a major part of the conversation in Vancouver — which is great, people are very passionate about food and where it's grown — but we're not having enough conversations about people who don't have access to food.”

It’s a myth, Taylor said, that West End denizens are affluent and old. He said that one-in-three residents live in a low-income household, and nearly half are between 20-39, according to the most recent census data available. Despite that, many don’t access traditional charitable food banks — either through stigma or being too busy working many part-time jobs to make ends meet.

“If we're going to talk about how wonderful local food is,” he said, “we have to have these conversations as well.”

The annual festival, he said, is a chance to bring families together regardless of their age, income or experience with food, and share delicious meals together while exchanging and sharing food-related skills.

For instance, on Thursday guest chef (and local Member of the Legislative Assembly) Spencer Chandra Herbert will cook a free tomato soup lunch using the community garden’s cherry tomatoes — which the politician originally sprouted in his own window (registration necessary).

“We want to create opportunities for people to access food in our neighbourhood house and beyond,” Taylor said, “regardless of how much money they have.

“The food we’re sharing with our neighbours should really be something they can celebrate and that we can be proud of.”

Paul Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House, visits one of the organization’s numerous community garden plots ahead of the annual West End Food Festival, which starts Thursday.

David P. Ball / Metro

Paul Taylor, executive director of Gordon Neighbourhood House, visits one of the organization’s numerous community garden plots ahead of the annual West End Food Festival, which starts Thursday.

The West End Food Festival takes place Thursday, Sept. 15 through Sept. 20 at Gordon Neighbourhood House (1019 Broughton St.).

Events include a free-registration lunch Thursday at noon cooked by guest chef MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert; followed by a 3-5 p.m. food gardening and cooking workshop; and later a “pop-up potluck” dinner at 7 p.m. in Nelson Park Community Gardens (1030 Bute St., register online), and sessions on family urban gardening, kombucha fermenting, pizza-making, growing herbs and more.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods will host a "Craft Brew and Comfort Food" fundraiser for Gordon Neighbourhood House's work at 7 p.m. (Tickets are $20 and available online).

On Friday, the house will host a 1990s hip-hop themed Brews ‘n’ Chews party with local beer and donuts at 7 p.m., organized in partnership with Black Lives Matter Vancouver.

For more information and the full calendar of events, visit West End Food Festival's website.

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