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Meet CCEC Member Tani Tupechka

Accessing good food during illness and the leg hold trap of poverty is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.  In 2009, I was forced off work and onto disability because of a chronic muscle illness. Food took on a whole new meaning for me.

At the recent Vancouver Food Summit, a Coast Salish elder said, “food is life.” So true.  And food is also love and fueled by communities working together.

Each of us has an important role to play in food security - including community organizations like CCEC. I’ve done a good deal of food activism at the community level; in gardens, kitchens and educational initiatives.  I saw how access to good, affordable food is a huge barrier for many people – as it was for me.  NGOs and organizations need to receive the support to put even more energy and resources towards this key issue.

Accessing local food programs became key for my survival.  I had support from people in my community, but if it wasn’t for the financial help that CCEC provided, I would have gone hungry many times.  On top of that, in the spirit of community, the workers at CCEC always treated me with respect when I needed help, especially Atilio Alvarez.  He never once treated me like I was poor or untrustworthy, instead he was always kind, supportive and caring.  I am super grateful to him and the many people in our communities that helped me when I needed it most. 

Recently, I’ve been able to return to the community work I love and my own struggles have focused my energies on food justice.  Food security is at the heart of social and environmental justice. It ensures that people not only survive, but begin to thrive.  

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  Recently, Matt Hern has had a book published, it is called What a City Is For; the Politics of Displacement. The author is attached to SFU and well-known in East Vancouver as an activist. The book is excellent exposé on how our property ownership system works to the advantage of some while squeezing out many.

This week there is a great overview of the book published in the Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith provides a good description of the essential arguments put forward in the book. Those of us who live in East Vancouver should pay attention. The current approach to real estate has divorced our city from our residents. Increasingly real estate is seen as an investment, it is not seen primarily as a residential resource.The home ownership markets tend to chase lower income people out, enabling gentrification.

Those interested affordable housing should review the both the case studies from other cities and the proposals that Matt Horne brings forward. They will appear radical. They challenge the status quo. But our fascination with home ownership, in particular, is at the heart of the problem.  We need to reconsider both our cultural assumptions relative to home ownership and our way of taxing real estate holdings.  A good case is made for non-market housing, and removing the incentives to speculate on this resource.

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein's newest book is called NO IS NOT ENOUGH, and it is a call out to communities, thinking people, and progressive politicians. She sat down with Charlie Demers at a Writers Festival event on June 24th and laid out the essential arguments for constructive change - environmentally, socially, and economically. 

At the core, she emphasizes that resistance, saying no and protesting, is not going to be enough.  She contends that 'reacting' to a rapacious agenda the degrades the planet and consigns millions of people to poverty, or worse, is only a first step.  She sees the need for progressives to fashion a strong, fresh, and vital agenda that can contest the field in democracies, especially the USA. And also, she sees the need for communities, municipalities, and local governments to pick up the bigger challenges - and not wait for 'big government' to take action. 

The book largely pivots on the new directions, statements, and behavior of the new leader of the free world.  She entertainingly and succinctly lays out the 'brand management' tactics of the new president.  There are echoes of her previous books No Logo, and This Changes Everything. But she also includes observations on the recent BC election and the UK election.  In those cases she was heartened by the championing of truly progressive and exciting policies, broadening the discussion of what can be done by government. She noted that these visions were supported by voters.

The argument goes further than electoral politics, however. Ordinary people and community-based initiatives are also needed - both to effect action and to hold governments accountable.  Naomi Klein was referencing the Women's March and other events that are prompting people to get involved and take greater responsibility for a whole host of issues; immigration and refugees, housing, health services, education, transportation... In this context, CCEC and the many community groups we bring together are primary examples.

The challenge to the hundreds in the audience that evening was simple, 'It is up to you, us, to develop a vigorous, positive plan for the future; and put it in place.'

 

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Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks Work Towards a Poverty Free BC 

Lettuce Turnip the Beet on Poverty Reduction Campaign

Meet CCEC Member, Vancouver Neighbouhood Food Networks (VNFN) and Ian Marcuse, tong-time CCEC Member who is one of the sponsors for this group.  Ian works for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, one of the 14 neighbourhoods across Vancouver who belong to this Food Network.

The VNFN’s are a grassroots network of people, organizations and agencies collaborating on food initiatives to ensure that all community members have access to healthy, culturally appropriate and sustainably produced food.  Ian says, “We know that food brings people together and help to build connections, but it also divides us as a community.  There are too many people that don’t have enough money to pay for food.”  Financial constraints have been identified as an underlying cause of food insecurity by groups including the Dieticians of Canada.

That is why Ian and the other Network Coordinators are working with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition to bring attention to the fact that British Columbia remains the only province in Canada without a formal plan to reduce poverty; and that having an effective and comprehensive poverty reduction plan is critical for achieving food security.  Ian says, “In our work, we engage with the most marginalized community members, witnessing first-hand the detrimental impact that barriers to accessing food and abject poverty can have on a persons’ health and well-being. It is often those with the greatest need for high quality nutritious food that face the most difficult barriers to accessing it.” 

He shares with us the story of one of the participants in the Bulk Buying Program.

"When I first met her just over one year ago, she said, “I am literally starving”, and now she says, “this program has saved my life".   I’ve worked 9 years in this job and no-one in Vancouver has said to me that they were starving.  I then learned that Anne is a pensioner, on a low fixed income, has multiple health and mobility related issues related to eating an unhealthy diet for many years.  She didn’t have money for healthy food.  Then her doctor told her she was malnourished and must eat more fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods.

Being in the program has given her the option to eat more veggies.  Anne now enjoys trying new foods she would not normally eat, such as kale.   She also describes the community connection that has helped her.  Anne told me she feels that the program is not just a food pick up, but an event to look forward to and a chance to connect with others and share health and cooking tips and what works for others."

Ian tells us that the Food Networks campaign, Lettuce Turnip the Heat on Poverty Reduction – Vote!  is designed to make the connection between poverty and food insecurity.  He says, “Poverty is an election issue. We are working to raise our voices together to show candidates in the provincial election that we’ll be voting for politicians that commit to a strong and thorough poverty reduction plan.”

For more information and to see the the infographics developed by the VNFN group that show the impacts on each pillar on alleviating hunger, visit http://vancouverfoodnetworks.com/vote/  
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Former CCEC GM Jill Kelly was honoured with the Gary Gillam Award at last week's Central 1 Annual General Meeting. The award goes to individuals who exhibit exceptional leadership, as volunteers and otherwise, in the pursuit of community economic development.  Jill was recognized for her achievements in the world of credit unions (especially as a pioneer at CCEC), childcare, co-op housing, LGBTQ rights, worker co-ops, and community healthcare. Jill currently sits on the board of the Reach Community Health Clinic. Hooray for Jill!  With humility, in her remarks she expressed her appreciation and noted that all the items listed were done jointly with others. She asked that the cash award be directed to Groundswell Education Society and the Cooperative Development Foundation.

The other award winner was another CCEC member.  Catherine Ludgate served on the CCEC board for nine years, during which time she went to work for Vancity.  There she carried two projects; the Living Wage campaign and Each One, Teach One Financial Literacy campaign. These initiatives lead to her being recognized under this awards program as well. Congrats to both Jill and Catherine!

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The big issue facing our province, and Canada, is inequality - of incomes and wealth.  The past three decades have been very good for BC's elites, but others have stagnated or drifted downwards. Averages and aggregate numbers disguise the truth.  

A feature in today's Globe and Mail provides a vivid overview of the precarious situations confronting many people.  Young families, renters, seniors and many others are being stressed.  It is clear that measures like an increased minimum wage, higher social assistance payments, housing subsidies, and more effective taxation of wealth are needed.  Even a local business economist has endorsed the latter. Jock Finlayson of the BC Business Council is quoted in the Globe.  “In the business community, we are worried about it, it’s forcing people to look at living elsewhere. It’s forcing people with children to live in accommodations that are not really designed for families,” he said. “Those who are established in the market have all enjoyed an unearned windfall in wealth. It’s also tax free. How equitable is that, from the perspective of the 30 per cent of renters, or those who bought at top-dollar prices?”

The Vanishing Middle Class is a big issue in BC and in the US.  A recently published book from MIT academic Peter Temin paints the graphic picture. There is a good review and summary available at Evonomics.  As Temin observes, and Lynn Parramore emphasizes, these diverging populations are at the heart of political discontent and will demand attention.

Recent analysis has also shown that job growth in BC (and Ontario) has been in positions where wages are mostly below the average level, essentially low-paid work.  This is in stark contrast to elsewhere in Canada.   

Indeed, the system is rigged to benefit those who are at the top of the pile currently. And as government policy has caused the problem, government policy is also the way to correct it.

 

 

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