By Ruochen You
I have attended an event called “Senior Social” last weekend, and it was a meaningful experience which inspired me a lot. The event was held at the Hastings Community Center, and senior citizens were invited to make dumplings alongside the facilitators. During this event, I realized that food is not just for eating, and a community centre is not just a place for relaxing and socializing.
The role of food in the system extends way beyond just eating. Firstly, food can help bridge gaps between people during its preparation, since the meal is something in common among all who are present. With everyone working towards the goal of making a wonderful dish, it becomes easy to engage in conversation, which brings everyone closer and strengthens social bonds. Secondly, food has cultural significance. Preparing meals that are familiar to you helps bring to the event a sense of belonging and relaxation, which is essential for its success.
A community centre serves several purposes other than just relaxation. Firstly, it can be a reflection of a country’s development. Since community centres are non-profit organizations, they don’t bring in any additional profit to the nation. With that in mind, it follows to think that there must be enough money around to allow them to exist and to support this kind of welfare system. Secondly, a community centre functions as a platform where people can develop their own abilities. Students can be volunteers and work on their leadership skills, and facilitators of different events can run programs that relate to their own professional goals.
During the event, we chatted about our day-to-day lives, talked about how to make tasty dumplings, and discussed food recipes. I had a great time at the Senior Social event and would like to thank the Vancouver Parks Board for giving me this chance to touch base with the modern food system in Vancouver and how it interacts with the people. This activity reminded me to think in different ways and to reflect on how to do things appropriately, for example, always asking the person who is captured in a photo for consent before posting the photo online. Overall it was a really nice event, and I would like to thank the Hastings Community Centre for a lovely experience!
By Hailey Wang
The Senior Social that I attended on Oct 13th at the Hasting Community Center was a brand new program in this centre, and aimed to teach seniors some food preparation skills in the community kitchen. Three seniors attended the event and learned cooking skills from the organizer of this program: Joyce Chow, who is also a BC dietitian working in the senior home. Three dishes were prepared under Joyce’s instruction: seaweed salad, pork and vegetable dumplings and sweet potato dessert soup. The seniors were very engaged in helping prepare these dishes and taking notes. During the preparation, they told us that they seldom came to the community centre and they got to know about this program by brochures in the community library. As Joyce said, this program was designed originally for some seniors living alone, in order to teach them cooking skills; the program allows them to take some food home and encourages them to go outside more often instead of staying at home.
As a Land and Food System student, I am interested in how this program can benefit the elderly and how can it improve the quality of seniors’ diets. As stated above, one of the purposes of this program is teaching the seniors some food preparation skills. By observation and short interviews with the seniors, it seems like they had very limited cooking skills. We were told that they don’t think they’re very good at cooking, and only do it out of obligation. “My cooking is just reheating the food from restaurants”, one of the seniors said. This reminds me of the concept of “food justice”, which is defined as constraining food choices and accessing to good food for all by eliminating disparities and inequalities as it represents a transformation of the current food system (Gottlieb and Joshi, 2010: ix). Due to the fact that these seniors are not able to cook, they have a limited right to make food choices, which reflects a lack of food justice in the community.
In conclusion, this Senior Social event is considered a great program for the elderly. Not only because it provides the seniors a chance to go out cooking and chat, but also because it teaches them more culinary skills. This allows them more options when choosing their own food in the future. As they are able to cook, they will have the right to decide what food to eat and hopefully, they will have a healthier and more nutritious diet.
Gottlieb, R., & Joshi, A. (2010). Food Justice. MIT Press.