BC Healthy Living Alliance Webinar: Food Security and Social Housing


Mother and Daughter Baking TogetherThe BC Healthy Living Alliance believes that good health starts at home and in the communities in which people live. Social housing provides affordable housing for some of the more vulnerable people in our BC communities, many of whom deal with issues around food insecurity. “A minimum of 11% of households in BC experience food insecurity. The proportion of insecure households in social housing is up to 7 times higher than that.” The BC Healthy Living Alliance webinar this month, Food Security and Social Housingshowcased three different aspects of addressing food security issues for social housing residents.

In Vancouver Coastal Health’s recently released Action Framework and Resource Guide for food security in social housing Lianne Carley describes how research shows food insecurity has an impact on:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Child development
  • Health in adulthood for those who have experienced food insecurity in childhood

If you are interested in receiving updates on food security in social housing initiatives, contact Lianne at lianne.carley@vch.ca to be added to the email distribution list.

Judy Walsh, the Tenant Support Worker at the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society (NAHS) spoke about the successful programs NAHS has developed to improve food security for their residents, including the ‘Six Easy Pieces’ Cooking Class, which involves 6 people in 6 sessions with 6 different menus.  Participants work in pairs to learn simple recipes, share in the preparation of a full meal, and leave with a container of leftovers to take home.  All NAHS buildings now have tenant gardens, and NAHS tenants have started a food buying club to share the cost of purchasing food items in bulk.

Recommendations Judy makes for organizations wanting to make a commitment to food security:

  • Include food security in the organization’s vision, mission and/or key strategic objectives and initiatives
  • Include food security among the organization’s performance measures
  • Dedicate resources and mechanisms to improve food security
  • Have an articulated strategy for addressing food security

Michael Kerszenblat, BC Housing Regional Operations Manager, spoke about the BC Housing initiative to provide skills and resources to BC Housing tenants through the People, Plants and Homes and other Community Development programs including tasting kitchens, food skills for families, and food preparation and gardening workshops, on subjects such as natural pest control, plant propagation, preserving the harvest, and square foot gardening.  As well as partnerships with NGOs to run community kitchens and community gardens, he also described a popular mobile produce market, which is held just prior to cheque day, when tenant finances are stretched thin. To make the market more accessible, wooden market tokens are pre-sold to tenants, usually just after income assistance cheque day.