Community Based Experiential Learning Project - Final Report
Course: LFS 350 001
Instructors: Will Valley and Eduardo Jovel
TA: Nicolas Talloni
CBEL Final Report
This report details the Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL) project completed by Group 24 in collaboration with their assigned community partner, the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN), during the fall 2014 semester. The larger aim of this project was to provide students with practical experience in the field of food security while fostering connections between academia and the community at large.
Our assignment was to create a map detailing food assets in the Hastings Sunrise community (meeting a specific criterion). The research question posed was: what are the current food assets within the HSC and what are the broad, predetermined categories they fall into?
In order to address this question and complete the map, data was collected through various channels such as online resources, ground-level data collection, conversing with community partners, and consulting neighbourhood and city directories. We then compiled the food asset data into an inventory and an editable, layered map on Google Maps Four different layers were used to differentiate between certain asset types.
This map will predominantly be used by community organizers, like the Hastings Sunrise Community Network to help disseminate the information to the general public and policy makers. We recommend that the map be continuously updated and improved with new information and technology in order to remain relevant and useful.
Key limitations of this project were time for completion and spatial boundary constraints. There are some key food assets just outside the community boundary (which were included due to their importance). Despite these limitations, we see this map as a great starting point and a valuable resource which will contribute to food security in the community.
The Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network Food Asset Map is a collaboration between the HSCFN and UBC LFS 350 Team 24 students: Carrie Cheung, Cindy Dai, Alison Ludgate, Phoebe Luk, Alexa MacEwan, Julian Napoleon, Penny Pang and Lucy Valnicek. This partnership aims to improve the existing food system by collecting and compiling information on food assets in Hastings-Sunrise. This will allow us to create a baseline which can be used by community organizers and members as a means to identify resources or the lack thereof, and to plan and implement changes. Team 24 worked in collaboration with two other UBC LFS 350 groups and Joanne Mackinnon (HSCFN Coordinator), and incorporated input from HSC members. Team 24 aimed to generate two deliverables by the end of this terms collaboration: a database and a map detailing the locations of food retailers and available food programs and services within the community.
Team 24 has created a systems map of the Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network (HSCFN), which looks at the interactions with and within the HSC at various levels. HSC is a diverse neighbourhood containing many regions with different sociocultural and socioeconomic populations and varied demands (community member, personal communication, October 7, 2014). The neighbourhood’s development has also led to the creation of food deserts. Thus, a solution that maintains a focus on food security while using a social perspective in the food sovereignty regime is required (Allen, 2013; Wittman, 2011). Joanne Mackinnon and Team 24 focused on the need to assess the HSC food system through a social lens and to facilitate changes through local food systems and agriculture. We identified community members' use and familiarity with food programs and retailers to be the most significant indication for the importance of the asset. By considering individual interactions with food assets, we identified four key determinants in food choice. These key considerations became the criteria for inclusion into the map. They are: originating from a local source, having a health aspect, being affordable or being culturally appropriate. The accepted food assets are then categorized into three broad groups: Community Gardens and Orchards; Community Food Markets; and Churches, Schools and Others. These are the categories we used to organize our map. In building on these relationships illustrated within the systems map and focusing on the two deliverables as mentioned earlier, we developed our research question: what are the current food assets within the HSC and what are the broad, predetermined categories they fall into? (Course:LFS350/Projects/2014W1/T24, 2014).
In order to ensure the map aligned with the HSCFN’s goals for the community as a whole, and to maximize its applicability to the aforementioned determinants, Team 24 developed four secondary research questions. These secondary research questions were also designed to identify gaps within the current food system and were expressed as:
- Are the determined food assets accessible and usable by the HSC?
- Are the determined food assets appropriate across a range of socioeconomic statuses?
- Are the determined food assets both culturally and ethnically diverse, and appropriate?
- Is the way in which this information is presented meet the needs of the community and improve on their current food system?
We began our project by researching food asset mapping which was previously conducted by other organizations such as CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at Yale University) (Santilli et al., 2011). The research elaborated on the motives for creating such maps and the potential benefits they provide the community (Santilli et al., 2011). Food asset mapping can identify problems like food deserts situated in the community and provide information on resources and their locations for locals to use (Santilli et al., 2011). This research gave us insight on obstacles that other research groups faced while carrying out asset mapping, and allowed us to avoid similar problems during our project (Colloredo-Mansfeld et al. 2014). A shortage of man-power, and time constraints were commonly encountered issues reported by other research groups, and as such our group allocated extra time and labour for the gathering of our data (Colloredo-Mansfeld et al. 2014). Investigations of different research designs such as qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches were also considered (Reeves et al, 2008). We concluded that the ethnographic paradigm of qualitative research best fits our project of food asset mapping because this method is suitable for informal and small sample sizes at a social approach (Reeves et al, 2008). Quantitative analysis is irrelevant to our data collection because we are not assessing numerical data. A large portion of the data resulted from community engagement and interaction which involved conversing with local Hasting Sunrise members who are familiar with the area.
We used a multifaceted approach to identify food assets, combining online research (Google Maps, Yellow Pages, HSCFN website) with ground-level data collection by walking through the HSC. We also participated in community events that allowed us to gather credible information from locals who are familiar with the neighborhood. Additionally, we consulted Joanne and other community partners, and their input lead to the filtering of results to exclude assets which did not comply with our criteria. We used Microsoft Excel to compile and organize our data (see Appendix B) and used Google Maps Engine to produce the map. Communication within our group and between other stakeholders was done through email. Effective communication was important for collaboration with groups 9 and 25 to complete our project. We used the same map parameters and legend as group nine to create consistency between the maps of the two neighbourhoods and included HSN food asset information obtained by group 25.
We were aware of our ethical responsibilities to consider the wants and needs of the community, and maintain objectivity throughout our project (Santilli et al., 2011). To the best of our ability, we promoted local, healthy, ethical, and culturally appropriate information (Santilli et al., 2011).
Our process included collecting data, categorizing it, plotting and analyzing the map. Our data collection was qualitative rather than quantitative. We compiled data on green grocers, schools, and food, programs, and services provided by churches and community centres. We collected this data to answer our research question of what food assets are available and we qualitatively filtered them into four categories: HSCFN, Gardens, Food Retailers and Community. This is reflected in our map and database (see Appendix B).
Each data collection method provided its own advantages and limitations. Using online resources and directories was efficient and comprehensive, but we could not discern accuracy or additional information. In contrast using ground-level data collection provided up-to-date and detailed information, however was highly inefficient and assets may have been overlooked. Our community partners provided qualitative insight into the geographic boundaries of the map, in terms of where HSC members typically purchased food assets, as well as the types of assets available in the community.
Our research question focused on identifying the food assets of the HSC. The identification of these assets, or lack thereof, will be used by community members and to influence future governmental and institutional policy. A diverse number of food assets were identified as providing fresh, healthy, and/or ethno-specific foods at reasonable prices. As the map materialized, the limitation of the Hastings/Sunrise food assets emerged as a primarily spatial issue. Accessibility issues present the largest obstacle in the development of food security in the HSC neighborhood.
Various conclusions regarding the community’s food system can be drawn from the data collected. Despite being a large residential neighborhood, the food assets found within the HSC boundary are limited. The two most commonly used grocery stores identified by neighborhood residents (Canadian Superstore and Donald’s Market) are found near, but outside, the community boundary. Additionally, the food asset map shows an absence of food assets in large portions of the HSC neighborhood. Beyond a concentration of grocery stores situated near the intersections of Hastings and Nanaimo, and a small area around First and Rupert, the remainder of the neighborhood could be defined as a food desert. A food desert is defined as "an area...with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of lower income...communities" (US 110th Congress, 2008). Due to this, many residents are forced to obtain basic nutritional requirements outside the neighbourhood. The distance from affordable and nutritious food assets presents a major challenge for those with limited mobility. Adams et al. (2010) have associated numerous health problems, including diabetes and obesity, with living in a food desert, and these potential health implications for residents constitute a major concern. The presence of community gardens could potentially improve food security within their vicinity, but the few community gardens situated within the HSC face many limitations, including short-term land leases, limited plots, and exclusive membership criteria (Ferris et al., 2001). Based on the above findings, HSC residents could benefit from some basic improvements in community food security, including an increase of affordable grocery stores and permanent community gardens, particularly in the areas of the neighborhood that are currently food deserts.
Our findings are limited in that community food assets are not static - their dynamic nature will necessitate ongoing augmentation and updating of the food asset map and database. In addition, there may be food assets beyond the scope of our data collection techniques. Restaurants, an essential food asset for many individuals, were excluded from our project due to time constraints. Consulting a more diverse representation of the community may also have produced a more comprehensive food asset database.
Our group created a food asset map and database. We hoped to establish a baseline of the food assets in the community and ultimately facilitate community engagement by raising awareness of diverse assets within the neighbourhood. The project will also enable its users to identify service gaps within the community, and to improve food access for community members through the dissemination of information, food programs, and policy changes. In light of these goals, and in communication with our community partners, we recommend the following:
- Distribute of the food asset map throughout the community, with information on involvement in the neighbourhood houses, gardens, and other community food assets, in order to enhance community engagement.
- Encourage continuous augmentation and updating of the food asset map and database, to maintain their relevance to the community.
- Increase communication among the members of the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network. During our interviews with the Community Network members, lack of collaboration was cited as a concern by all members.
- Establish community gardens or alternative food assets or information in this area to enhance neighbourhood food security and knowledge. This is necessary because our food asset map revealed a large food desert in the Eastern segment of the community. The cause of these deserts could also be identified, and, if possible, addressed.
- Design a more integrated website, including information on all of the food network partners, our food asset map, and other event information. During our research phase wherein we located food assets in the neighbourhood, we found a scarcity of information regarding the members of the Hastings-Sunrise Community Food Network, with neighbourhood houses, gardens and other assets all having separate web pages. As many people use the internet as a primary information source, this may help increase community engagement and participation in their food network.
In conclusion, during the course of the CBEL project, we utilized a variety of research methods to locate and identify thirty-six diverse food assets, ranging from neighbourhood houses to community gardens, emergency food supplies and food retailers. These assets were both compiled in a database, and plotted to a map in coordination with Groups 9 and 25, and with input from our community partners. We endeavoured to make this information clear, complete and coherent, so as to provide a resource which could be used to improve on the current food network. We determined that the food assets were primarily located on the Central and Western areas of the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, and that accessibility may be a factor for individuals living on the Eastern side of the community. On the whole, the assets appear culturally and ethnically diverse, and the prices vary in accordance to their target markets, with a large overall range.