Impact Stories

Collaborating for Social Change – United for Food Summit 2024  

Connection and collaboration are essential for addressing the challenges and inequities of BC’s current food system. On May 2 – 3, approximately 80 participants, including community partners from United Way BC Regional Community Food Hubs and Food Fillers, policymakers, funders, United Way staff and others gathered in the North Okanagan for United for Food Summit 2024 to build positive social change.  

“The United for Food Summit is a heartfelt opportunity for us to bring all of our partners and communities together to share space, have conversation and be in each other’s presence to connect,” says Alzbeta Sabova, Director of Food Security at United Way BC. 

As a sector convener in the community-based food access space, United Way BC supports the Regional Community Food Hub (RCFH) network to identify gaps in their local food systems and address them together. RCFHs are an innovative, local response to food security where community members have access to food, food literacy and wellness programming, together with wrap-around services such as mental health supports, employment services, childcare and more. Currently, there are 23 Regional Community Food Hubs, representing 105 funded organizations, with 76 staff members and 6,269 volunteers across BC. 

The Smmit provided a chance to meet up, share learnings, and work toward food access solutions. 

“Historically if you look at the way funding works, collaboration has been unsupported and so the implicit message is that collaboration is not valuable. Now we have United Way BC coming and saying, yes, collaboration is valuable. We recognize that, we are supporting it, and that is the glue that’s actually needed right now to build the food systems that we need going forward,” says Ingrid Liepa, who helped establish the Kimberely Cranbrook Regional Community Food Hub. 

Sharing for success 

Elder Jack Spotted Eagle of the Okanagan Indian Band welcomed guests to the territory and the summit opening in Vernon on May 2. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Sheila Malcolmson, celebrated the work of the United Way BC food hub network and event participants. The Province of British Columbia funds the work of Regional Community Food Hubs through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.  

Summit storytellers Eva Aboud (Frog Hollow), Joey Liu (South Vancouver), Sharon Dong (CityReach) and Dr. Godwin Ude (Kingdom Acts) with United Way BC staff Mikaela (in red) preparing to share learnings.

Hub storytelling kicked off the first evening with speakers from across the Regional Community Food Hub network including both hubs and spokes sharing learnings – successes and challenges – about how they are meeting unique food needs in their communities. Hubs are set up around a chosen service provider whose capacity, expertise, and relationships in local communities make them well positioned to support their Hub. These chosen providers are known as “stewards” and are responsible for regional coordination and collaboration with other service providers known as “spokes” who serve specific and unique needs in their communities and regions.

Hastings Sunrise RCFH spoke agency Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House,  the Kimberly Cranbrook RCFH Spoke Agency Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank Society, South Vancouver RCFH Steward Organization South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, and Surrey Whalley RCFH Steward Organization CityReach Care Society and spoke agency Kingdom Acts Foundation were the organizations presenting.

“We share knowledge. How do you do this? How do you do that?” says Dr. Goodwin Ude from Kingdom Acts Foundation, a spoke agency of the Surrey Whalley RCFH.  

Longtime food hub volunteers, Donna and Rosaline enjoying a lighthearted moment.

For participants, volunteers and best friends Rosaline Glynn and Donna Gault of the Hardy Bay Seniors Citizens Society in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, the summit was a great way to expand knowledge.  

“Our hub is small, and we keep a rolling agenda on the computer of our meetings…We’re all trying to do the same thing, but we’re not really collaborating…We’re going to learn how to organize,” Rosaline says. The Hardy Bay Seniors Society is a spoke agency of the Mount Waddington Regional Community Food Hub and is entirely volunteer run. Currently, 75 people receive food from the Hardy Bay Seniors Citizens Society through a weekly hot meal service to seniors at their centre, and free grocery shopping every Thursday. 

The Society is also an excellent example of how United Way BC initiatives provide an ecosystem of care. Not only are they part of a Regional Community Food Hub, but they are also a United Way BC Better at Home agency keeping seniors active and engaged while they remain in place in their homes.  

Visiting Splatsin Territory  

Laureen Felix, Splatsin Garden Coordinator welcoming guests to Splatsin Indian Band Territory May 3.

Day 2 saw participants travel north on Highway 97 to Splatsin Indian Band territory to the Splatsin Community Centre. Laureen Felix, Splatsin Garden Coordinator greeted guests with a welcome message and shared her community’s journey towards food security and Indigenous food sovereignty progressing from supporting three families six years ago to just under 90 today with gardens. 

Workshops explored how to effectively mobilize for positive social change in the food security space in BC through a better understanding of public policy and a deeper dive into recognizing relational and trust-based philanthropy, which centers the needs of community and seeks to build authentic relationships between funders, nonprofits, and the communities they serve.  

“For us frontline workers, we’re soldiers, we’re working really hard and I feel like United Way is behind us, making us feel supported, helping us feel seen and heard and asking us what we need…supporting us in a way that broadens our horizons,” says Eva Aboud, Food Security Manager for Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, a spoke agency with the Hasting Sunrise RCFH in Vancouver. 

United for food security 

Gatherings like the United for Food Summit 2024 not only help strengthen the sector by building capacity and collaboration, they also help create more equitable, inclusive and sustainable food systems and communities throughout the province for today and for the future. 

“Our 23 Regional Community Food Hubs across BC are more than a network – they’re a movement,” shares Mikaela Hudson, Project Strategist for Regional Community Food Hubs at United Way. “They are already doing the hard, essential work of mobilizing to improve access to food in their communities. Here at United Way BC, we are honored to walk alongside them, to learn from their challenges and celebrate their successes, and keep bringing them together through events like the United for Food Summit to amplify their impact on a provincial scale.” 

Learn more about United Way BC Food Security Initiatives.