The term “food justice” is new to many in the community including to some at Archway. While Archway has operated a Food Bank since the ’80s, the Archway Food Justice program only began in 2021.

Food Justice Coordinator Vicki Lin defines food justice as “looking at the concept of food security from more of a just approach, that’s human rights based and looking at how different actors within the food system relate to each other.

“Through stakeholder and community engagement, our Food Justice program is able to identify gaps and barriers our community experiences, in terms of food access, and works together to limit them.”

The Food Justice team is tasked with achieving “universal access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for all, while advocating for the well-being and safety of those involved in the food-production process.”

Rather than looking to only meet the immediate needs of those facing food insecurity, individuals working in the food justice movement are looking upstream to see what structural barriers exist and how they can be dismantled.

While providing services, food justice advocates work to make services as low-barrier, inclusive, accessible, and effective as possible.

“It’s important to think about how dignity can be provided in every service,” said Vicki.

“Through stakeholder and community engagement, our Food Justice program is able to identify gaps and barriers our community experiences, in terms of food access, and works together to limit them.”

Vicki Lin

Food Justice Program Coordinator

Bulk Buy Program

While much of their work consists of behind-the-scenes coordination between service providers, Food Justice also operates a direct service provision to the community through their Bulk Buy program.

Clients can order a bag of fresh, high-quality produce available on the second Saturday of each month. Using the power of bulk purchasing, each bag contains up to 9-12 types of produce for only $15.

Participants can choose between a standard bag or a South Asian friendly bag to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations. Plans to organize several distinct cultural food bags are in motion and the program is working with communities to decide what is most appropriate to include.

Since starting in June 2021, the program has grown from 300 people to now working with 1,200 people; equating to about 350 households.

Gemma Bridgefoot, Program Assistant at the time, explained that this program is important from a food security perspective:

“The rapid growth of the program affirms what we have already seen. Food is expensive and especially this year. The Canada Food Report forecasts food to increase by another five to seven per cent. This means an average family household will be spending an additional $1,200 per year for groceries.

“If you are sitting at a place where you have a bit of a margin, that is okay. But if you are a family that is just barely scraping by – on top of every other cost in BC – that is a lot of extra money a year.”

To ensure the sustainability of the program, participants are asked to act as volunteers on a rotating basis. Volunteers help pack the pallets of food into the individual produce bags and clean up. The food is distributed in a building within the Historic Downtown Abbotsford, providing an easily accessible pick-up spot. Volunteers deliver the bags to those with transportation or mobility barriers.

“By having people volunteer, and be part of the program, we get to hear more about the struggles that they face and really develop a relationship with them. And this helps to empower people to bridge that gap between service user and service provider,” Vicki said.

Vicki also explained that food insecurity affects people of colour, Indigenous peoples, refugees, and newcomers the most.

“Typically, these are individuals that are left out of, or underserved by, the food system when it comes to services.”

She says that this is because these individuals each have their own unique food system that relates to their cultural and religious background. Locally, culturally appropriate food is often more expensive or is not available when compared to food that is consumed by individuals who adhere to a western-style diet.

two Archway employees

Food Justice Program assistant Gemma Bridgefoot and program coordinator Vicki Lin outside Archway’s Montrose Avenue headquarters.

variety of vegetables

Next Steps

Food Justice is hoping to address food accessibility on a larger scale. They recently received funding from the Vancouver Foundation to be a host for a participatory action research project that aims to uncover the intersectionalities between food justice and lived experiences of homelessness.

Partner organizations include Fraser Health and the University of the Fraser Valley. By studying the needs of this demographic, they can better implement programs designed to meet those specific needs.

Vicki explained that it will be valuable for “service providers in the community to have information in their hands that they can then use for further funding for food security efforts. And to potentially have it inform a food policy within Archway and, hopefully, be brought forward to the city to inform a citywide food policy.”

The program is also partnering with the Archway Food Bank.

“It has been an exciting and innovative opportunity to work alongside the Archway Food Bank in ensuring people have equitable access to food. Food is a human right, and everyone in our community has the right to access healthy and culturally appropriate foods,” said Vicki.

The Food Justice Team is an ambitious group working to create additional programs and communities. They plan to convert their building into a dedicated food hub, providing skill building, education, and knowledge-sharing programs.

Seeing people connect over food is truly a passion for the program staff. Their vision for the Fraser Valley Food Connection centre is a place folks can come to “Eat, Grow, Share and Connect.”

For all those who believe that access to nutritious and culturally relevant food is a human right, Vicki invites them to contribute by donating, volunteering, and advocating for food security.

“Together we can build a hub around food, build that community and bring community into that space.”

What better bridge between people, than food?

Grocery Bags

Bulk Buy Program grocery bags on distribution day. 

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