Social housing providers look at food security

A study included in the agenda this Thursday (September 20) of the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation highlights the increasingly multi-faceted mandate of nonmarket housing groups.

The document reviews food security programs in a dozen housing locations owned by the regional body. According to a covering Metro staff report, its findings and recommendations are generally applicable to other housing providers.

The study was commissioned by MVHC and the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.

“For a long time, we’ve thought about social housing as strictly the provision of housing,” BCNPHA research director Jill Atkey told the Straight by phone today (September 19). “But that’s changing as the needs of people become more complex. There’s a broader and broader mandate that non-profit providers are starting to encompass, and that includes things like food security.”

The study makes a number of recommendations to improve the food security of mostly low-income tenants in social housing sites.

One is the expansion of community gardens. Another area for enhancement is community kitchen programs. Residents can also benefit from initiatives like collective bulk purchases of food items.

According to Atkey, these measures can strongly contribute to the well-being of tenants with fairly limited input of resources from housing groups.

“Non-profit providers often work under very restricted budgets from government, and so that limits their ability to play a role in food security programming,” Atkey said. “And they also face aging infrastructure and expiry of their operating agreements in 10 to 15 years.”