Vancouver Parks Board – Sustenance Festival






Project Title

Sustenance Festival - Vancouver Food Conversations

Project Description

Sustenance Festival is an annual multi-site arts, culture, and food festival organized by the Vancouver Park Board. Since 2009, it has served Vancouver as a platform for community groups, artists, and social service organizations to celebrate and push the boundaries of food innovation in our city. The festival planning committee maintains a deep commitment to reflecting on, and responding to, global trends and current issues impacting the everyday intersections of Vancouver’s people and its food systems.

After years of organizing this annual festival, feedback from partners and participants expressed the sense that certain voices were not being heard or represented in this festival platform. In order to address this gap, the planning committee engaged in a research phase (2017) in order to dig deeper into issues of equity, justice and the underrepresented peoples of what had been commonly referred to as the “food movement.

Based on the findings of the 2017 research, and in partnership with organizations across Vancouver, the 2018 Sustenance Festival will be a two month series of independently-organized events united by themes of equity, justice, and celebration. Students will attend festival events, assist as needed (e.g. room set-up and take down, audiovisual support), live tweet key messages and impressions, and create a reflection and report-back for each session attended. Students are invited to develop creative report-backs (written and/or multimedia) that will inform the project's overall final report.

Project Goal

The Sustenance Festival is ready to embark on a more “inclusive” experience and build upon relationships and concepts developed through the research phase. A new partnership and planning table has emerged which includes representatives of several Neighbourhood Houses, Vancouver Park Board, Vancouver Food Policy Council, and non-profit organizations such as the Hua Foundation. This table brings together the Sustenance Festival concept with the legacy of the Vancouver Food Summit (est. 2016) around shared themes of celebration, inclusion, anti-oppression and decoloniality in food systems. This partnership recognizes that both the Sustenance Festival and Summit are currently under-resourced, but through our “connectedness of purpose” and shared values, we can continue advance justice-oriented food conversations. We are committed to working together towards greater awareness, and realizing a vision of justice in Vancouver’s food landscape. It is a future vision that foregrounds and uplifts t the cross-pollination of cultures, food, and art. Food affects our communities in deeply personal and political ways -- ultimately feeding providing sustenance for a healthy community in the present and for the future.

LFS350 students will support the promotion and documentation of the 2018 Sustenance Festival. This will support broader awareness and understanding of the under-representation of marginalized groups from the “food movement" and society as a whole. Instead of seeing underrepresented groups strictly as victims of marginalization, the festival also seeks to showcase the vibrant food-related organizing led by underrepresented groups in Vancouver.

Skills Preferred + To Be Developed

  • Understanding of asset-based community development
  • Understanding of food justice
  • Understanding of/interest in storytelling as food justice and decolonizing praxis
  • Writing and critical thinking skills
  • Familiarity with the use of social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram

Preferred Days of Week and Hours

Dependent on event schedule

Project Location

Throughout Vancouver

Project / partner orientation

  • Request Sustenance Festival report from your TA.
  • Sustenance Festival video (created by LFS350 students in 2017)
  • Additional supporting documents will be sent in advance of the September 19 meeting

The following resources are suggested to provide context for the project:

Related Community Service Opportunities for Students

While documenting the Sustenance Festival, students will have the opportunity to support and participate in Vancouver’s spiciest food justice events and to meet food justice activists of many ages and backgrounds.

Organization Information


Vancouver Park Board - Sustenance Festival

Mission + Vision

The Vancouver Park Board’s Culture Plan strives to develop, enliven, enhance, and promote arts, culture, and cultural diversity in our city in ways that benefit our citizens, creative community, businesses, and visitors. Centered around World Food Day, Sustenance Festival is a project of the Park Board and is a celebration of the intersections between art, culture and food. It is a city-wide festival featuring food-inspired workshops, exhibitions, talks, walks, dances and more – all taking place in community centres and public spaces throughout Vancouver. The Park Board’s mission is to provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.

Guiding Principles + Values:

Nurturing community engagement (also called public engagement, public participation, or public involvement) is a fundamental civic goal.

  • We believe that people who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process;
  • We promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision;
  • We promote sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision-makers;
  • We seek out and facilitate the involvement of people potentially affected by or interested in a decision;
  • We seek input from participants in designing how they participate;
  • We provide participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way;
  • We communicate to participants how their input affected the decision.

Primary Contact

  • Contact Person(s): Brenda Racanelli, Community Arts Programmer
  • Email:
  • *Address: Strathcona Community Centre, 601 Keefer St, Vancouver, BC V6A 3V8
  • Phone: 604-713-1845
  • Preferred Contact Method: Email
  • Website:

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

  • I hope students will learn about...

The connections between food, stories, and justice

  • I think students will come to appreciate...

The never-finished process of community development

  • Students will develop...

An understanding of barriers to participating in the “food movement,” and a greater awareness of diverse forms of food systems participation.

Organizational Outcomes

  • Promotion and awareness of the festival and its purpose
  • Reflections and creative evaluation material to incorporate into a final report