5. DTES Neighbourhood House – Right to Food Zine


Project Title

Urban Farm Project Development Support

Organization Name

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House (dtesnhouse.ca)


Urban agriculture, Right to food, Urban farm planning, Research and report

Related Course Concepts

Food justice, Food security, Asset based community development, Social class/income inequality, Indigenous food sovereignty

Organization Information

Organization Name

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House (dtesnhouse.ca)

Mission and Vision of Organization

To provide opportunities for residents to meaningfully engage with and contribute to their community in an equitable atmosphere of sharing and learning. The secular, grassroots Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House (DTES NH) embraces people of all ancestries, genders, ages and descriptions; annually welcoming almost 9,000 DTES residents in a community where 70% of our neighbours have low‐incomes, 700 are homeless and 5,000 are under-housed. Our programming is community inspired and varied, a sampling of which has included a Chinese Elders Community Kitchen, Traditional Aboriginal Community Kitchen, Leadership Development, a Children’s Community Kitchen, Nutritional Outreach Activities (Mobile Smoothie Project and Banana Beat), The Healing Circle, Father’s for Thought, Table Talks project, Family Drop In: Families, Farming and Food, Community Drop-in and the production of a Right to Food Zine. Those who built the DTES NH put the Right to Food at the heart of our work, as nutritional vulnerability was a theme familiar to all. Our goal around the Right to Food is to reform the nutritional impact, quality, abundance and delivery of food in the DTES in consultation with residents, community food providers, non‐food community organizations, healthcare professionals, policy makers, growers/suppliers, food/beverage industry professionals and researchers.

Guiding Principles + Values

We know food to be a communicative instrument and hence use its offering as an instrument of community building. The average DTES resident lives with one or more serious health issues, has a compromised immune system and is under- housed. Coupled with extreme material poverty, the lack of adequate housing renders people incapable of providing themselves with adequate nutrition. Typical housing quarters provide one small room with no cooking facilities or storage for foodstuffs. Many of our neighbours live in Single Room Occupancy units (SROs). The average DTES diet consists of a of starch (in the form of white rice and pasta); copious amounts of tasteless coffee garnished with coffee whitener (an addictive petroleum by-product) and refined sugar; endless soup; day old pastries and donuts; dishes made with an alarming amount of taste enhancing chemical additives; and processed foods. These ‘foods’ do not support positive health outcomes for our neighbours, but remain omnipresent in our community. What is not found in the average DTES diet is local, seasonal, fresh produce; sweets which are healthy (eg dates and figs); dishes made without additives and refined sugars; homemade vinaigrettes; alternatives to dairy products; and generally speaking fresh, identifiable foods. These are the things that the Neighbourhood House works to make available for our neighbours. When one is materially poor, the first things lost are privacy and choice. Offering people a choice of the foods they ingest is a critical piece of the NH food philosophy. It’s a commonly held myth that those living in poverty don’t have nutritional knowledge or aspirations.

Contact Information

  • Primary Contact Person(s): Rory Sutherland
  • Email: [[1]]
  • Phone: 604-215-2030  
  • Address: 573 East Hastings
  • Website: dtesnhouse.ca  

Preferred Method of Contact

  • Best method(s) to contact: Email

Preferred Platform(s) for Remote Collaboration

  • Email, Phone, Zoom

Project Description

Context: What challenge or issue does the project aim to address?

In Spring 2020, Patrick Moore from UBC Ethnography partnered with the DTESNH to convert an abandoned garden adjacent to the NH into a food producing garden to support an increase in meals being served from the NH during the COVID 19 crisis The project was initially funded through private donations and the committed labour of volunteers led by Patrick and DTESNH Staff, who are reactivating the lot, including 140 abandoned raised beds. Over 2000 seedlings were started and transplanted into the space. We have worked with the owner of the property to lease it from him for a three-year period, and to obtain the necessary insurance to cover the change in use. Now that these steps have been taken, we need support to create a robust urban farming project plan to make the best use of the space next season.

Main Project Activities

  • Research urban agriculture initiatives in food insecure communities.
  • Provide description of most successful models.
  • Learn about DTESNH and our urban farm project and find appropriate resources to support this work.
  • Organize and evaluate findings.

Expected Project Deliverable(s)

  • Students will research and evaluate models of inner city urban agriculture in marginalized communities.
  • They will draft recommendations for the use of the DTESNH urban farm site, creating 2 proposals for potential courses of action.

Intended Project Outcome

The DTESNH Urban Farm will provide healthy organic produce grown for the community by the community. Student contributions to the project will mean that we are well organized and resourced for the 2021 growing season.

Student Assets and Skills (preferred or required)

  • Any of these will be an asset: knowledge of gardening and farming; knowledge of social enterprise models; experience interacting with vulnerable populations; understanding of food security issues and right to food; interest in community development interest in research, evaluation, and report writing

Student Assets and Skills (to be developed through the project)

  • Build on existing interests/skills/talents such as gardening/farming, research, advocacy, writing, to meaningfully engage in community, build relationships, collaborate and create an amazing urban farm project for (and with) local residents and allies

Are there any mandatory attendance dates (e.g. special event)?

  • No

Is a criminal record search (CRS) required?

  • No

If a criminal record search is required, when should the process be initiated?  


Preferred Days of Week and Hours

Uncertain at this point

Related Community Service Opportunities for Students

We are looking for volunteers to support our Right to Food Zine Food Security publication.

Required Reading

Project/Partner Orientation Materials

Students should review these materials prior to the first partner meeting:

Additional Project/Partner Orientation Materials

The following will be provided at the first community partner meeting:

  • They will be provided with all urban farm-related documentation and research we have developed to date.

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

I hope students will learn about...

  • Food security in the DTES, strengths-based community development, and the Neighbourhood House movement.

I think students will come to appreciate...

  • Regardless of their material circumstances, people in the DTES have a keen interest in and passion for food.

Through this project, students will develop...

  • Understanding of the complexity of food insecurity in the DTES and problems with the charity model of human services.

Organizational Outcomes

How does the student project contribute to your organization's mission and long-term vision?

The DTESNH Urban Farm project advances our mission to provide opportunities for residents to meaningfully engage with and contribute to their community in an equitable atmosphere of sharing and learning. This project is an amazing opportunity for us to grow organic produce for nutritionally vulnerable community members, share knowledge about gardening with the community in peaceful space, and build a resilient food asset that the community has ownership of.

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source: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:LFS350/Projects/F2020/DTESNeighbourhoodHouse1