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Urban Bounty sowing seeds for the future

By Don Fennell

Published 3:28 PDT, Fri July 30, 2021

Former Richmond Food Security Society assumes new name to reflect varied programming

Emerging from the grips of a global pandemic, Urban Bounty is looking to a resilient future.

It’s a belief in the foundation of community that inspired the local organization to introduce a new umbrella name, one that reflects the many and varied programs of the Richmond Food Security Society.

“For many people, our society’s name was getting in the way of our goal to create a vibrant community through a sustainable food system of community gardens, education, and community outreach,” says executive director Ian Lai. “We’re still the same Richmond Food Security Society, but we’re wearing a different jacket with a more expressive name.”

Lai believes Urban Bounty will be easier to remember, both by partners and supporters, and help ensure the community is more aware of its activities and efforts to bring true food security to Richmond. For families and individuals, he says this will mean the ability to access resources and programs, and empower the community to shift towards a more equitable and dignified model of change.

Lai is also hoping Urban Bounty will attract more volunteers, members, and funders. Volunteers, like with most non-profits in the city whose work is invaluable, are at the core of the group’s success. Recovering hundreds of pounds of fresh fruit for community organizations—including the Richmond Food Bank—each year, its network also helps to establish community garden programs, teaches children and youth in the Richmond School District, and offers workshops to develop a healthier community as a whole.

Launched by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee in 2002 as the Food Security Task Force, Urban Bounty continues to play a pivotal role in defining Richmond’s food policies. Recently, the 2021 Foodland Asset Report identified the important lands currently available for food production in the city.

Lai and his colleagues are also anxiously looking forward to resuming Farm Fest at Garden City Lands—perhaps as soon as this fall. Held annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is among the society’s largest and affords the group a major stage on which to present the importance of food security.

Earlier this year, Urban Bounty was also recognized with the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association provincial award for community leadership. “The Food Hub,” its innovative meal program in partnership with the city, donated more than 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of food that was repurposed into 500 ready-made weekly meals for at-risk community members from May to December 2020.

“This award is an acknowledgement of the positive impact working together has in strengthening our community and its resources,” Mayor Malcolm Brodie says.

In response to growing concerns about food insecurity during the pandemic, Urban Bounty also worked to advance the meal initiative. Four volunteer chefs joined the program, which continues to operate out the city-owned Terra Nova Red Barn.

Since 2010, “Seedy Saturday” has focused on nurturing the tradition of growing from local seeds.

Despite the pandemic, Urban Bounty was also able to join forces with the Richmond Garden Club this past May for a “Spring Fling” at Paulik Park. The sale of fruits, vegetables, and herb seedlings along with honey from its own hives, along with numerous workshops on organic gardening, cooking and canning, also help raise food literacy.

“We will still run the same programs and our legal name, the Richmond Food Security Society, and charitable status do not change,” Lai concludes. “(But) we feel that Urban Bounty encapsulates all that we do and is less of a mouthful. It also allows people not familiar with food security to ‘get what we do’ right away.”

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