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Reflecting on the Gateway: Conversations with our Community of Practitioners

In this month’s Homegrown Story, we respond to some of your requests to share a bit about who is behind the Gateway as well as some emerging directions for the site. It’s been 2 years since the Gateway relaunched after an extensive redesign and we’ve been reflecting and learning about the news, resources and stories we share.  We’re excited to build upon these strengths in collaboration with the impressive people doing on the ground food security work across BC.

 

Smoked Salmon - Indigenous Food Conference, Reflecting on Gateway
Photo from our first homegrown story:Indigenous food conferences reconnect food, land and culture of Vancouver Island 

It has been a joy to begin getting to know a number of you over the last two years since we came on board with the BC Food Security Gateway in Fall 2015. Who are ‘we’? We’re Keira McPhee and Zsuzsi Fodor, Content Managers for the BC Food Security Gateway. Keira  contributes to community networks growing a more just food system in the lower Mainland and Kamloops, including the Kamloops Food Policy Council and the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Zsuzsi is based in Vancouver and is currently working on implementing community-driven and more dignified approaches to food banking. She is also a member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council and its Food Justice Working Group.

The Gateway is funded through a collaboration between the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the Public Health Association of BC (PHABC).

The Gateway has consistently gathered, vetted, and shared resources and mainstream media stories since being established. A year into our roles managing the Gateway, we began asking how we could build on this foundation and best use the Gateway to deepen storytelling and better contribute to knowledge-sharing and capacity building in BC’s food security movement.

I want to lift up the BC-specific, high quality resources. The resources help me know where I am and feel rooted in best practice. 

Recognizing the importance of storytelling in the field of food security, Homegrown Stories were introduced to the Gateway in 2015, to provide a snapshot of successful projects from across BC. This offered us the privilege of interviewing Health Authority food security leads, community practitioners and municipal government staff. Since 2015, we’ve spoken with 27 of you and produced 15 original stories in addition to this video as part of the Homegrown Story series.

Feature stories have been as imaginably diverse as anyone familiar with BC’s food security landscape might guess. Collectively, they cover each of the five health regions and topics as varied as municipal food policy, Indigenous food sovereignty,  seed incubator farming, school food, wild salmon, restorative justice, food access and poverty and income inequity.

The Homegrown Stories help us to connect outside of annual food system gatherings. I recognize the names. This connects us in a way that is really helpful – we’re out there doing our thing and it can feel like no one is listening, we’re just voices in the dark. These stories inspire and bring us together in a way that is helpful and positive.

For this year’s annual Gateway evaluation, we put the call out to some of the people we spoke with in developing these 15 stories and invited them to reflect and think forward with us.  We were able to have in-depth conversations with some amazing community food security practitioners earlier this year who, along with survey respondents, offered us their perspectives on how the Gateway can continue to evolve and better serve the needs of those working in the field. Out of these conversations came a few key recommendations to guide the Gateway into its next phase.

We learned that the Gateway provides some of you with trusted and topical content you’re sharing in your own communications. Why spend time gathering news stories, resources, and stories when the Gateway can collect and curate content for you? We will continue to develop content for broadcasting and work with networks on how to make the Gateway’s offerings more accessible.

As I’m developing better communications with volunteers I send them little bytes of things that help tot connect their role to this broader movement, so that they see can how they’re playing  a part in this bigger work.

You also told us that you value storytelling as a way of learning about the work across the province and that being featured in a Homegrown Story helps you share and celebrate your work with your communities.  We will continue to prioritize the Homegrown Stories within the Gateway and craft out new creative ways of shaping these local BC food security stories.

That poverty story is where we as a group can have the most value. Mainstream media isn’t covering this. I hope Homegrown Stories can continue to do that. As long as it’s non-partisan we can share it widely. It’s so important to cover these stories.

On that note, we heard strongly that you would value the Gateway playing a bigger role in offering opportunities for peer to peer learning among food security practitioners. This might look like Gateway hosting themed conversations via conference calls or webinars as well as participating in conversations you convene, with an ear to sharing your expertise in Homegrown Stories and Gateway forums like the bi-monthly Gleaner Newsletter and our Twitter feed.   

If I could participate in a call with other community food security groups working on incubator kitchens right now, I’d jump. I can’t find what I’m looking for. Especially in rural BC we don’t have a whole slew of people to go to. I don’t even know where to reach out to most of the time, so it would be great if a trusted hub like Gateway was playing more of that role.

Lastly, and importantly, the Gateway must better reflect and share Indigenous viewpoints, stories, and voices. As the original stewards of this land, holding Indigenous knowledge and experience front and centre in the food security conversation is critical. We will make some changes to the Gateway by revising website content to reflect the territories, networks, and histories of Indigenous food systems.

As we develop some of these strategies we invite you to be in touch with us if:

 

  • You have a food security topic you want to learn about or experience and knowledge you’d like to share with peers across the province
  • You’d like to use Gateway content in your own communications and want to explore how you might do that
  • You have an idea for a story from your work we can help craft into a Homegrown Story to share across the province

 

We look forward to another year of getting to know and learning from the work of food security practitioners all across the province. We warmly invite you to connect with us to explore the ways in which we can continue to collaborate.

-Keira and Zsuzsi

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It’s very useful to have this hub and know that it’s going to continue developing. I can see it becoming the place that everyone relies on as a connector.