A few years ago, Nathan Edelson, former city planner and an instructor at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), approached me to see if I’d be willing to take on a couple of his Masters students. Lindsay and Zsuzsi were both interested in the food movement and Nathan knew of my work with the Westside Food Collaborative (WFC). He thought it might make a good project for the community engagement component of their course. I’ll never forget the first moment I laid eyes on these two young women. They arrived, a little late, sparkling and giggling, to a community potluck hosted by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, where I was presenting on the food security work we were doing on the west side. I instantly fell in love with both of these shining stars.
A year or so before, we had commissioned a study in which we had discovered that many of our seniors were malnourished or going hungry. There were also food deserts on the west side, areas that had little or no access to a grocery store. Just getting to a store was a huge problem for our seniors and low income families. In our WFC meetings, we had been discussing the possibility of a low cost store modeled after the ones run by Quest Food Exchange and Vancouver Coastal Health on the east side of Vancouver. We had been talking to various potential community partners, including the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Then one day, a visitor to our table suggested we think about making our markets mobile. We loved the idea, but wanted to start something immediately as we developed the mobile market – and so a pilot for a couple fresh produce markets ran at the South Granville Seniors Centre and Kits House in 2009. The following year we received funding from the United Way to run a full flight of pocket markets with affordable local produce and a voucher system for those who needed a little extra help. Zsuzsi and Lindsay joined in for that series of markets.
It was a privilege working with these women on our WFC pocket market project. They both brought so much skill, professionalism and creativity to the project. As the coordinator, I couldn’t have done it without them (thank you Nathan!), along with our other wonderful volunteers and members of the WFC.
Both women have since graduated and have been out in the work force. Zsuzsi is the food facilitator and community developer at Kits House and has guided the work of the WFC with wisdom, grace and political awareness beyond her years. Lindsay has been working as a planner, and has just moved back home to Utah where she will be starting her own planning consultancy. The three of us got together recently for a beautiful meal to say goodbye to Lindsay.
Not only was the local feast amazing (produce from Barefoot Farms), but Zsuzsi had a pretty amazing announcement too. The mobile markets we envisioned so long ago are about to become reality. She has been working with the wonderful Clemencia at the South Granville Seniors Centre, Planted Community Food Network, with support from Greenest City, Vancouver Foundation, Greater Vancouver Food Bank and others. The first markets will start July 18th at and run through September. See the times and locales below.
You can watch some amazing videos produced by Planted with interviews of the seniors that the mobile market will serve, telling their stories and the impact these markets will have on their lives.
I couldn’t be more proud of Zsuzsi and Clemencia for making this vision reality! Find out more and how you can be involved at the Plenty Campaign.
As for Lindsay, I’ll miss her bright spirit and presence in my life, but know she will shine wherever she goes. I will always think of her and Zsuzsi as my pocket market miracle girls.
Westside Mobile Food Market
Every Thursday, July 18-Sept 26
11 am-1 pm at the South Granville Seniors Centre (1420 W. 12th Ave)
2-4 pm at Marpole Place Neighbourhood House (1305 W. 70th Ave)