Let me start with the cool visual to the right. This word cloud is a visual depiction of the conversations that I’ve had. If a word is mentioned more often, it appears larger in the cloud. Not surprisingly, food has been prominent. Then we have words like kids, garden, people, school, and community – all of which have been important in the food assessment so far.
I have had the opportunity to talk with approximately 20 groups over the last couple of months. Some of these meetings have been with individuals – others with small groups. These groups represent a wide range of organizations – people who work with low income communities, newcomers, seniors or youth, healthcare workers, government officials, ordinary citizens and others. There are more interviews to come yet – I’m mostly focusing on getting individuals and families involved now as well as hearing from some of the local business community.
The thoughts I will share here are interim and based on the conversations I’ve had so far. Some are specific, and some need to be worked out a little more. But if you have any thoughts with what I’m saying, please let me know.
1. Many people in St Vital and throughout Winnipeg are not aware that poverty and hunger exists in St Vital. Some of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods are only blocks from one of Winnipeg’s most lucrative shopping malls. There are neighbourhoods in St Vital that face the same challenges as low-income neighbourhoods in other parts of the city. But while there is significant awareness about poverty in the inner city, funders and the public at large have only recently awakened to poverty in the suburbs. Several people I have spoken with say that it is important for people to be aware of the realities of poverty in St Vital.
2. People are looking for opportunities to grow food. I have heard a lot of interest in the idea of community gardening or other ways of growing food in the city. It’s not for everyone – and there are definitely people who are more interested than others – but several organizations identified gardening as something they were interested in. There are barriers to this, however. Land can be a challenge to find. There is a need to connect with groups that have experience with community gardening with those that have less experience. Some of these groups might be in St Vital – but there is also a lot of community gardening experience in other parts of the city.
3. The need for more cooking skills has been identified in many of my conversations. People who cannot cook come from all kinds of families, both high and low income. But cooking skills have frequently been identified in relation to people who are new to Canada and unaware of the foods that are available here, or for people with low-incomes trying to make ends meet. But everyone has agreed that it is important to support the development of food skills.
4. In a conversation at the Marlene Street Resource Centre, I was told that on cheque day there is a “parade of cabs” as people return from their grocery shopping trips. Why should those with lower incomes, however, use their food money for transportation? One idea that has come up is the idea of a shuttle service to grocery stores that would run on cheque days and allow people to stretch their income a little further.
Those are some initial thoughts. Other ideas have come up as well, but I want to keep things relatively brief for now. I should say in conclusion that there is a lot happening around food in St Vital. I believe my community inventory is up over 60 programs and my business inventory is pushing the 170s. That is a lot of food activity for one fraction of the city.
Keep it up St Vital – and keep your thoughts and suggestions coming in.