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The Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
By Sandra Thomas

Group hopes to help feed
West Side seniors

Vancouver Coastal Health notes malnutrition in South Granville

A West Side collaborative dedicated to healthy food access is organizing "pocket" markets to help bring nutritious fruits and vegetables to low-income residents and seniors.

Spring Gillard, with the Westside Food Security Collaborative, said a recent study commissioned by the group in cooperation with Vancouver Coastal Health shows many seniors living on Vancouver's West Side are suffering from malnutrition.

"The situation is quite dire around South Granville because there are so many seniors and no more affordable grocery stores," Gillard said. "All the small produce shops, bakeries and meat vendors are gone."

The study shows that transit limitations, financial restraints and physical challenges are the main barriers seniors face when trying to buy nutritious foods, particularly fruits and vegetables.

In response, the collaborative is organizing small, temporary markets, which will include one or two tables of local, fresh produce for sale at community centres, parks, on side streets, local churches or businesses.


• Spring Gillard

Culturally appropriate food will also be for sale in neighbourhoods that request it. The collaborative will purchase produce directly from farmers, giving seniors access to farm fresh food near their home.

Gillard also interviewed some West Side seniors, including a 63-year-old woman who said she'd worked all her life, but is having problems making ends meet now that she's retired. The woman had initially called the South Granville Seniors Centre to say she had no money and no food in her fridge. She also didn't have enough money to take transit to the food bank.

"Her story spurred us into action," Gillard said. "We invited her to garden with us at the new Kits Neighbourhood House community garden, gave her a list of free meals and cheap food compiled by Vancouver Coastal Health and connected her to a woman who runs a monthly fruit and veggie box."

Gillard also told the woman about the upcoming pocket markets. To ensure the food is affordable, the collaborative plans to offer $3,000 worth of coupons for eligible seniors at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, the South Granville Seniors Centre, Steeves Manor supportive living home and others. Those agencies are also involved in the development, coordination and delivery of the markets. The collaborative hopes to run a series of pocket markets next year, but for now two pilot projects are scheduled. The first takes place Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon at the South Granville Seniors Centre, 1420 West 12th Ave. The second market will be announced in September. Go to for more information.

Meanwhile, all across the city another group is hosting what it calls "front porch" farmers markets.

Joanna Michal, spokesperson for NOWBC Co-op Community Outreach, says residents can go online to order organic, locally grown and produced food, which is then delivered to a central pick up point, typically located on a neighbour's front porch.

"When you pick up your food, you get to meet the owner and some of your other neighbours," Michal said. "And the next thing you know, you're being invited to a potluck dinner with wonderfully fresh and delicious food. It's about building community around food."

For more information on front porch markets, visit

© Vancouver Courier 2009

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Created: September 15, 2009
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