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Fork to Screen: Youth Engagement in Digital Storytelling through Food Systems Planning Bett, Erin Apr 30, 2013

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FORK TO SCREEN engaging youth in food systems planning through digital storytelling erin bett school of community and regional planning university of british columbia  FORK TO SCREEN ENGAGING YOUTH IN FOOD SYSTEMS PLANNING THROUGH DIGITAL STORYTELLING BY ERIN BETT A PROJECT SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS (PLANNING) in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES  School of Community and Regional Planning We accept this project as conforming to the required standard ........................................................................................ ........................................................................................ ........................................................................................ THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA APRIL 2013 © ERIN BETT, STUDENT, 2013  Cover photo credit: Brendan TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 1.0 Project Overview...................................................................................... 2.0 Credits .....................................................................................................  2.1 Acknowledgements ..................................................................... 3.0 Problem statement ..................................................................................  3.1 Project objective ...........................................................................  3.2 Why youth? ...................................................................................  3.3 Why food? .....................................................................................  3.4 Why digital storytelling? ..............................................................  3.5 Why me? ........................................................................................  3.6 Project limitations ........................................................................ 4.0 Project method .........................................................................................  4.1 Younger youth ..............................................................................  4.2 Older youth .................................................................................. 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 11 5.0 The stories ................................................................................................ 6.0 Reflections ................................................................................................  6.1 Facilitating meaningful youth engagement .................................  6.2 Incorporating multimedia technology ........................................ 7.0 Conclusions .............................................................................................. 8.0 References ................................................................................................ Appendix ........................................................................................................  A Creating a digital food story ..........................................................  B Brainstorming activity: generating story ideas .............................  13 14 14 14 15 16 17 17 18 1.0 PROJECT OVERVIEW There is no denying the current attention being paid to food systems. On any given day we can open a newspaper to read inspiring stories of communities coming together to build gardens and orchards, debates on the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve, or unsettling reports on the effects of declining bee populations on our global food security. Hand-in-hand with this increased attention is increased opportunity for, and perhaps pressure on, planners and policy makers to incorporate food systems into their planning frameworks, from ways to enable urban farming and increasing access to fresh, nutritious food, to developing city and region-wide composting systems. Many of the decisions being made now will determine the functioning of our local food system for years to come. One voice that has been missing for much of the conversation is that of youth - despite the fact that they will be affected by current decision- making well into the future. Young people under the age of 25 make up approximately one quarter of Vancouver’s population, with youth between the ages of 15 and 24 accounting for 12.8%1. They come from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, and are important members of every neighbourhood in the city. For many youth, their interactions with food are largely dictated by their families and schools; for others, particularly those beyond secondary school age, they are just beginning to make their own daily decisions about what goes into their bodies. But regardless of the capacity they have to make those personal decisions at the grocery store and in the kitchen, each one of them has years of experience as an ‘eater’, and has stories and insights to share about our individual and communal relationships to food. There are many opportunities to engage youth in food systems planning. Through this project, I made an attempt on a small scale, and through a relatively informal process, to facilitate the creation of a space for youth to consider their own relationships with food in the city and to share their personal experiences, insights, and recommendations. Due to its accessibility as an engagement tool, I chose to do this through digital storytelling. Over the course of 3 months, I worked with two groups of youth participants, one ‘younger’ and one ‘older’, to assist them in creating their own digital food stories, combining photographs they took with audio recordings of them reading their stories. The participants developed stories on a number of themes, from incorporating garden- based learning into education and facilitating food access through community kitchen programs, to the cultural importance of childhood foods. These stories are collectively available at youthfoodstories. 2 2.1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 2.0 CREDITS Thank you to all of the youth who shared their stories, knowledge, time and passion with me. This project is built on your wisdom and generosity, and I am grateful for everything I have learned from you. 3 This project has evolved out of the multiple people who have inspired and guided me along the path of my own food story. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks in particular to the following people for their support in this project: Maged Senbel, for his constant words of encouragement, his sage wisdom, and for showing me what it is to be a teacher. Jon Frantz, for his guidance and insightful feedback. Zsuzsi Fodor, for her time, love, and encouragement. Suzanne, Brendan, and all of my students, for keeping my passion constantly lit. DeLisa Lewis for her unwavering support, and for challenging me on a daily basis. And most of all, thank you to my mother and brother. For everything. Photo credit: Cassandra 3.1 PROJECT OBJECTIVE 3.0 PROBLEM STATEMENT Over the last decade, significant efforts have been made by Vancouver planners at the municipal and regional level to incorporate food systems into local planning: in 2003, City Council passed a motion for the development of a “just and sustainable food system” in City of Vancouver (COV), which was followed by the creation of the Vancouver Food Policy Council in 2004, the Vancouver Food Charter in 20072, and the inclusion of local food as one of the ten key action areas in the Greenest City Initiative3. These milestones laid the foundation for the 2013 Vancouver Food Strategy (VFS) 4, which provides an extensive framework for the future of local food, including dozens of recommendations for immediate action. Planners at Metro Vancouver Regional District have simultaneously been working to highlight the importance of food systems planning at the regional level, and released their Regional Food Systems Strategy5 in 2011. Community engagement has been a central priority for planners throughout the development of both the VFS and the Metro Vancouver Regional Food System Strategy. Planners in the COV’s Food Policy Department facilitated public engagement through a number of methods, including public events and focus groups, beginning in the summer of 2011, while Metro Vancouver planners hosted private sector luncheons, webinars, and a well-attended public dialogue. At the same time, however, it can be argued that few efforts targeted specifically towards youth engagement have been undertaken. Youth not only have valuable ideas and opinions to contribute to these and other planning initiatives, but have a right to participate in the decision-making processes that will affect them well into the future. This project is therefore aimed at opening up space for youth voice on the role of food in our communities. The objective of this project was to facilitate youth engagement with food systems planning at the local level through digital storytelling and to create a space for youth to share their voices. 4 youth engagement food systems digital storytelling old er you th younger youth youth’s digital food stories me food accessconnecting with nature cultural food heritages social responsibility education growing community connecting with where our food comes from celebration health and nutrition Overview of the project process and components 3.2 WHY YOUTH? Youth are often regarded by government and service providers as either a collective ‘problem’ to be managed or ‘victims’ that must be protected6, rather than as knowledge-holders with valuable individual and collective input to contribute. As opposed to being a burden, youth participation in community planning can be of benefit to both youth and the broader community. Research highlights that strong social connections and their perceived value within the community are important to positive youth development, and that their participation in decision-making processes contributes to their health, sense of community and connectedness, and resilience7. At the same time, youth can bring new perspectives and approaches to the issues at hand. They can provide direct knowledge of their peers’ motivations, interests, and concerns. They bring energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to the table, and can often become “the keepers of the vision”8. And beyond contributing valuable ideas and opinions to planning processes, youth retain the right, under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child9, to participate in the decision-making processes that will affect them well into the future. The COV has made youth engagement a priority in its community “Planning is an effort to shape the future. Children, who clearly have the largest stake in the future, should therefore have the right to participate in planning it.” – Fahriye Sancar “We [as youth] are so surrounded by what everyone else is telling us to do…and when it comes to food it’s the same.” - Cassandra, 19, project participant development, planning, and policy processes. The Civic Youth Strategy (CYS) was passed by Vancouver City Council in 1995, which highlights the value of youth’s contributions to community issues, and commits to “involving youth as active partners in the development, assessment and delivery of services which have direct impact on youth [and] in broad spectrum community consultations and initiatives”10. The strategy states that “the City will ensure that youth involvement is more than a token gesture”, and posits ensuring a strong youth voice in decision-making and promoting youth as a resource to the City as core objectives. Social planners at the COV continue to promote youth participation. For example, they currently coordinate, which provides youth with extensive resources to get involved with a variety of civic issues at the municipal and neighbourhood levels. Youth-focused planners at the City also partner directly with youth and youth services providers on a number of projects, such as the City-developed citizenU anti-discrimination and leadership training program. A note on terminology Who are ‘youth’? The term ‘youth’ has no consistent age parameters, though most definitions classify youth as those under the age of 25-30. For this project, I have used the terms ‘younger youth’ and ‘older youth’ to differentiate between the two groups I worked with. I use the term ‘younger youth’ to refer generally to secondary school-aged youth – in this case, the youth participants were all between 15 and 17 years old; I use the term ‘older youth’ to refer generally to youth who are between the ages of 18 and 25. All of the older youth participants for this project were under the age of 22. 5 3.3 WHY FOOD? The answer to the question why I should consider food when speaking of community planning can be as simple as ‘because everybody eats’. Food is a common linkage on which we all depend, and for that reason alone should be considered from a community planning perspective. In truth, however, the answer is much longer, more complicated, and quite personal. At the same time as it provides a universal lens, encouraging us to remember that all of humanity relies on the same basic elements of sun, water, and soil to survive, food is a clear representative of humanity’s vast and incredible diversity. The agricultural legacies of the communities around the world are as rich and varied as their cultural legacies of art, music, technology, and philosophy. They signify our deep partnership with place – the geological and climatic histories that have formed the soils, waterways and weather patterns, the animals that inhabit it, and the plants that grow there, with and without human cultivation. As Michael Pollen has said, “the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds”11. The knowledge humans have developed through this partnership is profound. On the larger scale, this global body of knowledge is being rapidly lost at a time when it is crucially needed. Even as the impacts of climate change become more immediate, our global food systems seemingly continues to drive our food supply towards reliance on “Food is so primal, so essential a part of our lives, often the mere sharing of recipes with strangers turns them into good friends.” - Jasmine Heiler “Food is so far-reaching. The food system is so big, and it’s really at the heart of so many issues…It can play a part in all of those things and solving all of those issues, and I think that the creativeness related to food is a lot of fun…especially in society and in school, where everything seems so structured.” - Brendan, 20, project participant fewer and fewer crops. Even here in Vancouver, where local, heir- loom varieties of fruits and vegetables are regaining some popular- ity, they are marginalized to farmers’ markets and specialty, ‘artisan’ grocery stores, out of the geographical and economic reach of many people. The majority of the food on our grocery store shelves is de- rived from a terrifyingly small diversity of crops: to name only a few examples, it is estimated that 90% of the USA’s historic fruit and vegetable varieties are extinct, and 90% of the varieties of wheat grown in China only a century ago are gone12. This leaves us hugely vulnerable to climate change, pests, and disease. The loss of this seed diversity and agricultural knowledge is not simply about food security. Together with culinary knowledge, the agricultural knowledge farmers and communities have accumulated over the millennia defines regional food heritages and cultures around the world. The food we eat is at the centres of both economies and households, of gender relations and social hierarchies13.  And to me, at the community level, this means that through food, we not only have something in common with every person we meet – we all eat – but have something to both share and learn. Coming together around the kitchen table, sharing our food and our food stories, can open up the space for grounded, engaging, positive dialogue about the past, present, and future of our communitites. As Caroline Counihan and Penny Van Esterik have so beautifully stated, “worlds pass between one bite and another”14. A note on terminology What is the ‘food system’? A food system involves everything relating to how food is produced, processed, distributed, accessed, consumed and recycled/disposed. This includes the whole sum of people, infrastructure, and land that are interconnected in the process of getting food into our bodies. A broader understanding of food systems therefore includes the governance, educational, cultural, and spiritual aspects involved in nourishing ourselves and our communities. 6 3.4 WHY DIGITAL STORYTELLING? New attention is being paid to the importance of stories in planning practice15. Stories represent multiple lived experiences of the city, and thus hold crucial information for planners. At the same time, the opportunity to engage in storytelling can play an important role in civic participation & empowerment16, providing citizens with a deep sense of belonging in and attachment to their neighbour- hoods17. The application of multimedia tools is also an emerging communication method in urban planning18, 19, 20, and provides an opportunity to bring both new depth and reach to the use of storytelling in planning practice, helping planners and community members to share complex processes and stories in accessible ways. Digital storytelling involves combining photographs with audio voice-recordings to create short films. Rooted in the photovoice method, which places the camera in the hands of those whose voices are not traditionally prioritized in the policy-making process21, digital storytelling in particular is a highly engaging medium, due to the relative accessibility of the technology and skills involved. Unlike documentary films, which require a significant technological skill-set and access to equipment, digital storytelling requires only simple photography and voice-recording equipment, and a much lower level of technological literacy. As a result, digital storytelling can be utilized as a highly participatory planning tool, providing community members with the opportunity to capture, compile and “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” - Robert McKee “We can learn about each others’ stories and realize everyone in the community has a gift to share.” - Annie, 20, project participant share their own stories – essentially working to democratize the planning process22. For youth especially, the use of participatory photography and digital storytelling can be an empowering process. While youth are traditionally treated as ‘knowledge consumers’23, as opposed to knowledge holders, digital storytelling can be an effective way for youth to have their voices heard, particularly given their generally strong understandings of technology and social media. And as Hull asserts, digital storytelling teaches youth to “construct stories that position them as agents…able to articulate and act upon their own desires, and as local and global community members able to alter their worlds.” 24 7 3.5 WHY ME? BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER I decided on this project because it was a way to bring together my passion for developing resilient food systems, and my experience in child and youth engagement and education. I originally developed the project idea during an internship with the Food Policy planners at the COV, while working on the community engagement process for the Vancouver Food Strategy. The capacity to do extensive engagement for the VFS was limited, but because I was already involved, I decided on this project with the hope that it could feed youth voices directly into the engagement and strategy development process. The Food Policy team had led some targeted youth engagement during an event organized by Evergreen, a local environmental organization, but no deeper youth involvement had been attempted. As with many community-based processes, however, my project’s timeline depended on a number of factors and people, and my work life had a continued tendency to get in the way of my progress. While the project did not end up developing along the timeline I had originally hoped, and therefore did not precede the creation of the VFS, I believe that the voices and ideas brought forward through this project are no less valuable to the current formal and informal food systems planning occurring in Vancouver. In terms of my previous experience working both with youth and with food systems, I have been involved with a number of community projects and programs over the past four years. I began at the School of Community and Regional Planning with an interest in focusing on food systems planning, due both to my personal interest in cooking and nutrition, and my academic background in environmental studies, which had focused on ethnoecology and food systems. During my first year at SCARP I developed a directed studies in partnership with fellow student Zsuzsi Fodor, who was also integral to this project, working with parents, teachers, and support staff at a local elementary school on planning and curriculum development for their school garden. I then became involved in the Landed Learning program at UBC Farm, an intergenerational project that brings together elementary school classes and community volunteers to work and learn in the garden. This experience lead me to EarthBites, a small non-profit garden and nutrition education program, where I led garden-based experiential learning programs at elementary schools around the city for two years. During this time I also coordinated an environmental youth leadership summer program with Evergreen, was involved in the participatory garden design process for Britannia High School led by Ian Marcuse of the Grandview-Woodlands Food Connection and Stanley King of the Co-Design Group, and worked with a number of youth and youth allies on the possibility of a Vancouver Youth Food Policy Council. While much of my learning and inspiration came from my community work, which often occurred outside the realm of the SCARP classroom walls, it was the teachers and courses at SCARP who instilled in me a deep appreciation for meaningful community engagement processes and community-based learning. My journey through SCARP has been a process of learning a whole new language and way of being in community, and of continually relearning humility. For me, food is much more than an academic interest. Growing, preparing, and eating food has been hugely therapeutic to me during difficult times, and I believe that our relationship with food is a powerful indicator of our relationships with our communities and the land. And while my dedication to developing resilient food systems is driven in part by an awareness of the instability and destructiveness of our current approach to feeding ourselves, it has been my work with children and youth in gardens around the city that nourishes me on a daily basis. The digital storytelling aspect of the project is something relatively new to me, and has been a significant learning experience. The trend towards the power of storytelling has seemed particularly strong within planning discourse as of late, and I have jumped on board - as Wade Davis has said, “storytelling can change the world.” 8 3.6 PROJECT LIMITATIONS When I originally conceived this project, I had a number of positive goals that I believed could be simultaneously achieved. My original objectives were to develop a process whereby youth’s voices could be incorporated into current food systems planning and policy decision- making processes, and that would empower the youth participants involved, while simultaneously providing a demonstration of the effectiveness of digital storytelling as a method for achieving both of these objectives. As I worked to develop this project, it became apparent that while I believe these are all worthwhile goals, they were significantly diverse for the scope of this project, and I did not have the capacity to develop a process that would follow through successfully on all fronts. In particular, despite my own extended involvement at the community level and through my academic work in the sustainable food systems movement, I do not have any direct power within the more formal planning and policy decision- making happening at the City of Vancouver, and therefore could not guarantee that youth participating in this project would be have their voices heard, considered, and incorporated at the municipal level. I also realized I would be putting significant pressure on the youth and myself if I attempted to draw out cohesive policy recommendations without proper time spent facilitating discussions with the youth participants, and would likely frustrate both them and myself by doing so. However, I did feel that through digital storytelling, and by presenting the participants stories through a social media format, I would have the capacity to engage youth in the larger community process of food systems planning, and open up more space for their voices to be heard. The term youth engagement, utilized throughout this project, does not have a singular definition, and is often used in reference to a broad range of practices and processes. My use of the term ‘youth engagement’ generally follows that of the Ontario Provincial Health Authority, which defines it as “amplifying young people’s voices and leadership, creating safe spaces where they can discuss issues that affect their lives, and taking action.”25 However, as noted above, my ability within the context of this project to provide direct avenues for action at the municipal level was limited, and therefore I have focused more heavily on the first two elements of the OPHA’s definition, while encouraging the youth participants to themselves take further action in areas of personal importance. Along the same vein, my ability to empower youth was likewise limited during this project, in terms of facilitating any immediate influence on current planning decisions. However, similar to youth engagement, there are a huge diversity of definitions and models pertaining to youth empowerment. Through their examination of Photo credit: Annie 9 previous models, Jennings et al. identified key dimensions of what they refer to as ‘critical youth empowerment’. In this project, I worked to provide an opportunity for youth empowerment through a number of these dimensions, including: creating a welcoming, safe environment; assisting youth in developing and practicing leadership and participatory skills; and facilitating engagement in critical reflection on interpersonal and sociopolitical processes26. Within the development of their stories, I attempted to place decision-making power in participants hands wherever possible; however, this was limited by a lack of reliable access to computers for them to compile their stories themselves, and by the time required to teach them the necessary editing skills. 4.1 YOUNGER YOUTH GROUP 4.0 PROJECT PROCESS The general process of this project was to facilitate a short work- shop series with a small group of youth that would help them de- velop their own personal food stories, with the outcome being a collection of digital stories that begin to provide some insight into youth’s experiences with and wisdom around our local food sys- tem. When I originally conceived this project, I had intended to only work with one group of (younger) youth. However, for rea- sons discussed in section 6.1, I ended up also bringing together and facilitating a second group of older youth. With both groups, I facilitated two workshops that introduced them to both food systems planning and digital storytelling. The youth participants took their own photographs and wrote their own stories. I collected the photographs and recorded each youth reading her/his own story. As mentioned above, access to computers was not available for the youth to combine their audio and visual components into digital stories, nor did I have the time or capacity to provide the software training that would have been required. I therefore put together the digital stories, and had the draft videos approved by the participants. Royalty free music was used for the videos, with most pieces composed by Kevin McLeod27. The primary difference in the approach I chose to take with the older youth group as compared to the younger group was that the older youth participants decided on story topics first, and then took pictures to visually represent those stories, whereas with the younger youth I had used the process of taking photos as a brainstorming activity that helped them decide what stories they wanted to share. This approach with the older youth steered further away from the more traditional photo-voice method, in which the photographs serve as a point of entry to critically engage with the social contexts and themes that they represent28; however, it was clear that due to their previous knowledge and experience, they quickly pinpointed stories they wanted heard, and most did not need to first engage in the photography process to generate their stories. Also, in order to limit the amount of hours they were voluntarily contributing to this project, the older youth group developed their food stories after only one workshop, with additional support through email, and the second workshop was devoted to debriefing the process and discussing opportunities to further engage in food systems The younger youth I worked with were all enrolled in a youth leadership program at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, which was being lead by the Community Programmer, Zsuzsi Fodor. The ten youth in this group were between the ages of 15 and 17, and attended the program at the Neighbourhood House weekly during the late winter of 2012. Over the course of two 1.5 hour workshops and one 0.5 hour debrief session, I worked to engage the youth in discussions around food systems, urban planning and storytelling, and assisted them in developing their lived experiences of food in the city into short digital stories. The first workshop was intended to engage the youth in ‘food systems thinking’, while the second focused on storytelling. Due to reasons discussed further in section 6, only four of the youth completed their digital stories. The first session was an introduction to both food systems planning and the concept of digital storytelling. As an icebreaker opening activity, the youth and I each introduced ourselves and answered the question: “if you were stuck on a desert island and could only eat one meal, what would it be and why”. The Community Programmer had previously introduced the concept of the ‘food system’ to the group, and I facilitated a further discussion on what the food system is and how we interact with it in daily life. During these discussions, we began to explore the youths’ experiences with food, and how these are intimately shaped by living in urban settings. We then returned to the initial icebreaker exercise and discussed how those answers could give us some insight into our own food stories and values. We briefly discussed the emerging incorporation of food systems into local planning, and I outlined my objectives and intentions for the project. Following this discussion, I explained the process for creating their own digital food stories, and played an example video from the Buen Provecho intergenerational digital storytelling project coordinated 10 planning; with the younger youth, the majority of the time was spent assisting them in developing their stories, with less time devoted to follow-up discussions. by the Grandview Woodlands Food Connection29. While the workshops that I facilitated took place during their regular program hours, full participation in my project necessitated additional hours outside of their program to write and photograph their stories, and therefore was voluntary (though the time taken to develop their digital food stories could be counted towards their program’s mandatory volunteer hours). Six youth of the seven youth present were interested in participating in the project at that time. Each of them was given a disposable camera and asked to take pictures representing all the ways they engaged with food over the course of one week, and to return the cameras during their program session the following week. They were also given a sheet on the process to assist them in starting to document their relationship with food and developing potential story ideas (see Appendix A). I collected the four cameras that were returned and had the photographs developed. The second workshop took place three weeks later, again during program hours at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. I opened the session with a demonstration on the art of storytelling, following Ira Glass’ discussion of the power of anecdote30. I then returned the photographs to the four youth who had submitted their disposable cameras. Due to problems with the quality of images from the disposable cameras, which will be discussed further in section 6.2, some of the youth decided to take more photographs using their own cameras to use in their stories. All of the youth (regardless of whether they had taken photographs or not) then worked in pairs to begin brainstorming their personal food story ideas, using the exercise sheet included in Appendix B. Those who had taken photographs also explained the images they had captured, and what they had noticed about their daily relationships with the local food system. The whole group then reconvened, and I facilitated a discussion on the results of their brainstorming, focusing on drawing out the themes that had surfaced as being most important to them in terms of planning Vancouver’s food system (for example, access to culturally appropriate food, physical and financial access to food, health or sustainability). Based on these discussions, the youth were asked to spend time over the coming week writing their own short (1-4 minutes when read aloud) food story. I returned to the Neighbourhood House during the youths’ program hours the following week to record their stories. Three of the youth had written stories and brought additional photographs which they had taken with their own digital devices. I worked with each of these three youth individually to record them reading their food stories. I then spent half an hour with the whole group facilitating a discussion of potential avenues for action on food issues and/or themes they had identified as being important to them. One additional youth who had not been present for the first two workshops wanted to participate in the project, so I sent her a summary of the discussions in the previous workshops, and we met the following week to record her food story. The group of six older youth who participated in this project were all youth I already had relationships with: three of the youth had participated in the youth leadership program I had coordinated at a local environmental organization the previous summer, and three had worked with me on the working group for the Vancouver Youth Food Policy Council (VYFPC). I initially contacted this group through email, giving them an outline of my intentions for the project and the level of commitment I was asking for (two 1.5 hour workshops, as well as anywhere from 1-4 hours spent writing and photographing their stories). The initial contact email also included some introductory information on digital storytelling, and provided two example digital storytelling projects. One youth was unable to attend either of the workshops, but wanted to participate and took the initiative to create a video on his own. The first workshop was divided into two sections: a brainstorm on food systems planning and an introduction to digital storytelling. We began with a similar icebreaker activity to that done with the younger youth. Because of this group’s deeper knowledge of food issues, particularly those who were involved with the VYFPC, I facilitated a more in-depth discussion of issues related to the local food system, from production to waste, and including education, community knowledge, and cultural food heritages. This brainstorm served as a jumping off point for further brainstorming done in pairs and guided by the activity sheet found in Appendix B. The second half of the first workshop was then spent focusing on the power of storytelling and the digital storytelling method. Drawing again from Ira Glass’ building blocks of storytelling, I facilitated a discussion on the elements involved in telling a great story, including the power of anecdote, being descriptive, drawing in the viewer by raising and answering questions, providing an opportunity for a moment of reflection for the viewer, and connecting with the viewer through a ‘universal human element’. Emphasis was placed on writing stories that were of personal interest or importance to each participant, as the project was designed as an opportunity for them to have their voices heard, and on providing inspiration or thought-provoking ideas that would keep the viewer thinking about the local food system after their videos ended. The participants were asked to spend time over the following two weeks developing their stories and taking accompanying photographs. All of the youth had indicated during initial contact that they had access to cameras, and therefore disposable cameras were not provided. Four of the sixth participating youth were able to attend the second workshop. During the first portion of this workshop, each of the youth discussed the stories they had chosen to write, and what had inspired them to share these stories. I then recorded each of the youth reading their stories. The two youth who were unable to attend sent me their story materials via email. The second half of the workshop was then spent discussing themes that arose from the stories, and opportunities to move forward in terms of the issues they had identified. I then facilitated a discussion around the following two questions: first, why is it important for youth to get involved in decisions being made about the local food system; and second, what local food issues or themes would they encourage City planners to prioritize. In response to the first question, participants highlighted that youth will be impacted by current decisions, and therefore have both a right and a responsibility to get involved. Two participants 11 4.2 OLDER YOUTH GROUP highlighted the importance of encouraging youth to think about how food systems planning impacts their personal health, in terms of being able to access healthy food. One participant noted that a good reason to get involved in food-related projects is that it is connected to all sorts of other environmental and social issues. In answer to the second question, participants prioritized food access, particularly from a food justice perspective, highlighting the importance of community food programs, access to food-growing space, and subsidizing healthy food programs, as opposed to continuing to rely on the charitable food model. Participants also prioritized increasing education about food issues. This discussion was followed by a group brainstorm regarding ways for them to take action on issues that they are passionate about, including groups working in their communities that they could get involved with. Photo credits clockwise from top left: Brendan, Myles, Amy, Daisy, Sandra 12 5.0 THE STORIES The 10 digital food stories completed by the participants brought forward a diversity of themes. Through their stories, the youth participants encourage viewers to think about issues of food access, education, connecting to natural systems, social responsibility, health and nutrition, learning about where our food comes from, celebrating and diverse food heritages, and bringing communities together around the table. Below is a short description of each video. All 10 videos can be viewed at Younger youth’s stories Crystal’s story talks about a Taiwanese delicacy, the oyster pancake. She shows how realizing the importance of her food heritage has come to influence her food choices. Amy’s food story focuses on the relationship between the global food system local food systems, highlighting how the growth of large restaurant chains and food corporations is homogenizing food systems around the world. Sandra chose to share her and her family’s favourite foods, such as kimchi, broccoli, and lamb, for her story, encouraging viewers to think about the relationships we are cultivating between food and cultural diversity in our urban food system. Prince’s story talks about a traditional dish in his home country of Taiwan, the oyster pancake. Growing up, he hated the dish, but has now come to appreciate it for its nutritional value, taste, and importance to his cultural heritage. Older youth’s stories Ibrahim chose to explore storytelling through his passion for music. He wrote and performed a rap that encourages children and youth to think about what they are putting into their bodies every day. Cassandra used the digital storytelling format to share her interest in food access issues. She is passionate about working at the neighbourhood level to ensure that all people have access to healthy, fresh food. Her story profiles the community lunch program at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House and shows how it is helping to connect people of all ages and backgrounds in her neighbourhood to nutritious food and to each other. She pushes viewers to think about everyone’s right to be able to access nutritious food, and encourages us to work together to build a local food system that caters to everyone’s needs. Annie’s story talks about the role food has played bringing friends and family together throughout her life, and explores some of the local food-dedicated spaces that have become important to her. She shares her ideas and hopes for bringing communities together through food, such as connecting producers and eaters or food- focused neighbourhood gatherings, and encourages viewers to share the food stories that inspire them. Brendan’s story focuses on his passion for food and his reflections on the education system. His story was inspired by his time at camp outside the city, which made him think about how chaotic urban life can be, and how disconnected he felt to nature, his education, and his community. He takes viewers through his journey of reconnecting to the earth and his peers through a garden project at his high school, and the meaning it brought to his life. His hope for the future is to bring people closer together and closer to nature through more garden-based learning opportunities. Daisy’s story questions how GMO foods have become so widespread across our shelves. Comparing her experiences grocery shopping in China and Vancouver, she offers viewers the following answer: because we have let the social aspects of our food system, such as interacting with farmers, sellers, and neighbours, take a backseat to convenient, fast meals. She recommends that the City of Vancouver host a food festival to bring people together and to highlight the social and environmental aspects of the food system. Myles’s story follows his decision to question where his food comes from. Initially he thought he would write a story about how he prepares food at home, but realized he was lacking a connection to the food he was preparing. While telling his story, he starts to question where his food is coming from, and heads out to discover what food is available close to home. Photo credit: Annie 13 6.1 FACILITATING MEANINGFUL YOUTH ENGAGEMENT As stated above, the primary objective of this project was to begin to open up greater space for youth voices in food systems planning happening at the local level; this project was not designed to provide a rigorous analysis of the digital storytelling method. Rather, I started with the assumption that digital storytelling is a valuable planning tool, and hoped that my project would provide me an opportunity to inspire its further incorporation into planning practice and community engagement. My lack of an evaluation framework to account for both my and the participants reflections clearly limits my ability to analyze digital storytelling’s ‘success’ as an engagement tool. However, from the feedback that I received, particularly from the older youth, and as is evident from the videos, the story development process encouraged critical reflection on the participants’ relationships with food - for some in terms of personal relationships and for others in terms of the far-reaching effects and implications of the current food system, which is one of the dimensions identified by Jennings et al as being key to critical youth empowerment31. My primary practical challenge of using digital storytelling as an engagement tool was around cameras. I had provided simple disposable cameras to the younger youth in order to avoid making assumptions about their access to photographic equipment. However, the quality of the images suffered significantly, as the disposable cameras were not adequate for capturing the up-close, indoor images of food that the participants took. Disposable cameras would be more appropriate to photo-voice and digital storytelling explorations into place-based and neighbourhood development planning processes, where the photographs would predominantly be taken of landscapes. An additional challenge of using digital storytelling was developing a process that was participatory from start to finish. The project would have been more engaging had the youth been able to compile the audio and visual components of their stories themselves, and would have been more empowering in terms of facilitating the development of those technical skills. However, I did not have access to a computer lab to lead this process, and was again constrained by the amount of the time I felt I could ask the youth to volunteer to this project. 6.2 INCORPORATING MULTIMEDIA TECHNOLOGY 6.0 REFLECTIONS Dedicating time to developing relationships of trust An especially important lesson that this project imparted was the value of developing the participants’ trust in me, and the amount of time that should be dedicated to that process. This was made clear to me in the differences between working with the younger and older youth groups. For the younger youth group, I was reliant on the existing relationship I had with the youth’s program leader. However, my process would have benefitted from having more time available to develop a relationship with the youth themselves; in comparison, the participants in the older youth group had each already worked with me for a minimum of 2 months, and I felt that this was apparent in our workshops. Their openness and comfort in the brainstorming activities around food and storytelling would clearly have been a product of their age and more extensive experience with similar engagement and leadership projects, but I do believe that the existing trust also encouraged them to be more vocal in our discussions, and to be more excited about the story creation process. Taking more time to develop such relationships, however, must also be balanced with not overburdening participants. In general, scheduling time for such a project can be very difficult. I was lucky to already have a connection to a younger youth group through my relationship with the youth program leader. While this was a huge benefit in terms of not having to convene a group on my own, it also meant that I needed to work within the scheduling confines of their already very full program, and therefore had to limit the number of hours I was able to work with the participants. In addition, the program hours my workshops were scheduled for fell during spring break, and for that reason a number of the youth did not participate fully in the project. Because I only received 4 stories from the younger youth, I decided to also work with the older youth group, and was able to organize their participation relatively easily since I already had a working relationship with them. This project served as a transformative learning process for me in terms of understanding what it takes to develop a youth engagement process that is meaningful to everyone involved. My most significant areas of learning included: Starting with a clear objective As stated in Section 3.6, when I began this project I believed that it could simultaneously achieve a number of goals relating to: influencing planning and policy decisions; empowering youth; and demonstrating the effectiveness of digital storytelling as an engagement tool. Those objectives were simplified as I developed this project in recognition of my own capacity. A simplified objective was important not only in terms of acknowledging what I could realistically achieve with the time and resources I had available, but also in terms of clearly and honestly communicating to the youth participants my intentions and limited capacity to ensure that their voices would be listened to. Failing to communicate clear and achievable objectives to youth could result in a disempowering process, and does nothing to promote a sense of agency, voice, or trust amongst the youth who take the time and energy to participate. Ensuring the capacity for sustainable engagement In an ideal context, this project would only have been the starting point in engaging youth in food systems planning. Meaningful youth engagement is enhanced by sustained involvement, which is dependent on continued financial suport and dedicated time towards the process by adults facilitating the process. The involvement also must be sustainable in terms of the capacity of youth to participate. Between school, family, extracurricular, and work obligations, the potential already exists for youth to quickly become overworked and stressed. A key component of developing this project was ensuring that participation was not overly burdensome. While the project could have benefited from additional workshop time to include youth in the project’s development, to further assist in story generation, and particularly to debrief and evaluate the project, I felt I was already asking enough of the youth who had already contributed significant time and energy. 14 7.0 CONCLUSIONS Having witnessed the significant energy, depth, and wisdom that they can bring to the table, I believe that youth have valuable experiences and ideas to contribute to planning processes. This project aimed to facilitate the creation of space for those voices in regards to food systems planning, as the decisions made now will affect youth well into the future. For this project, digital storytelling proved to be an effective tool for encouraging youth to examine their relationships with the food system, and to share their insights in an interesting and accessible way. The stories developed by the youth participants were diverse, but it is my hope that, just as a story itself is more than a string of sequential events, these stories can stand together, and perhaps be joined by more in the future, to produce something that is larger than the sum of its parts. Photo credit: Brendan 15 8.0 REFERENCES 1 City of Vancouver. ‘Children, Youth and Families in Vancouver’. 2011. Accessed from lications 2 City of Vancouver. (2007). ‘Vancouver Food Charter’. Accessed from ter.aspx 3 City of Vancouver. (2010). ‘Greenest City 2020: A bright green future’. Accessed from greenest-city-2020-action-plan.aspx 4City of Vancouver. (2013). ‘Vancouver Food Strategy’. Accessed from egy.aspx 5 Metro Vancouver. (2011). ‘Regional Food System Strategy’. Ac- cessed from ment/AgricultureAndFood/Pages/RegionalFoodSystemStrategy. aspx 6 Barry, C. (1998). “Involving young people in neighborhood development.” Children and Youth Services Review 20(9‚:10): 765- 795. 7 McCreary Centre Society. (2012). ‘Youth Engagement.’ Ac- cessed from; OPHA, 2011 outhEngagementToolkit-April2011.pdf 8 Zeldin, S., McDaniel, A. K., Topitzes, D., & Calvert, M. (2000). ‘Youth in Decision Making: A Study on the Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations’. University of Wisconsin. 9 UNICEF. (1989). ‘UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’. Accessed from 10 City of Vancouver. (1995). ‘Civic Youth Strategy’.  Accessed from 11 Pollen, M. (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemna. New York: Pen- guin Press. 12 Sibert, C. (2011). ‘Food Ark’. National Geographic Magazine. Ac- cessed from siebert-text 13 Counihan, C., & Van Esterik, P. (1997). Food and culture: a reader. Routledge 14 ibid. 15 Sandercock, L. (2003). “Out of the Closet: The Importance of Stories and Storytelling in Planning Practice.” Planning Theory & Practice. 4(1): 11-28.  16 Kim, Y. C., & Ball-Rokeach, SJ. (2006). “Neighborhood storytell- ing resources and civic engagement: A multilevel approach.” Human Communication Research. 32(4): 411-439. 17 Ball-Rokeach, S.J., Kim, Y.C., & Matei, S. (2001). “Storytelling neighborhood: Paths to belonging in diverse urban environments.” Communication Research. 28(4): 392-428. 18 Frantz, J. (2007). “Using participatory video to enrich planning processes.” Planning Theory and Practice. 8(1), 103–107. 19 Sandercock, L & Attili, G. (2010). Multimedia Explorations in Urban Policy and Planning: Beyond the Flatlands. New York: Springer. 20 Sarkissian, W. (2007). “Video as a Tool in Community Engage- ment,” Planning Theory and Practice. 8(1): 98-102. 21 Wang, C. & Burris, MA. (1997). “Photovoice: concept, methodol- ogy, and use for participatory needs assessment.” Health Education & Behavior. 24(3): 369-87. 22 Sandercock. (2003). 23 Empower. (2012). ‘Our Stories’. Accessed from 24Hull, G. A.. (2003). “At Last: Youth Culture and Digital Media: New Literacies for New Times.” Research in the Teaching of Eng- lish. 38(2): 229-33. 25 OPHA. (2011). ‘Youth Engagement Toolkit.’ Accessed from thEngagementToolkit-April2011.pdf). 26 Jennings, L. B., Parra-Medina, D. M., Hilfinger-Messias, D. K., & McLoughlin, K. (2006). Toward a critical social theory of youth empowerment. Journal of Community Practice, 14(1-2), 31-55. 27 28 Wilson, N., S. Dasho, et al. (2007). “Engaging Young Adoles- cents in Social Action Through Photovoice: The Youth Empower- ment Strategies (YES!) Project.” The Journal of Early Adolescence 27(2): 241-261. 29 30 Ira Glass. (2010). ‘Ira Glass on Storytelling’. Accessed from 31 Jennings et al. (2006). 16 APPENDIX A. CREATING A DIGITAL FOOD STORY Over the next week, we will begin to create our digital stories in the following way: 1. Start to pay attention to the food that you are eating during the day. Where is it coming from? How is it prepared? Why are you eating that food?! 2. Start to take photographs of the ways that you interact with food. Photos can be of meals that you eat at home or when you are out, shopping for food, or food growing in your neighbourhood. 3. Start to think about your personal ‘food story’ as you are taking your photos. What role does food play in your life? What themes come up when you started to think about and photograph food? Some examples might be health, the environment, celebrating ingredients from around the world, sharing a meal with your family. Your story could also be documenting making a meal with your family…Take notes when you are taking your photos, so you can remember what they are of and why you took them. 4. At this point, you may already have an idea for what you want to share in your digital video. If you don’t, start with any one of the following questions: -Do you have a memory about a cooking/eating/growing/learning about food? This could be a story about a family recipe or meal that you enjoy. Maybe you have a memory about a special meal, or growing herbs. You might want to talk about food traditions that have been passed on through your family. -How does living in Vancouver, or in an urban city in general, affect your relationship with food? -Do you feel connected to the food you are eating? You might feel disconnected because you don’t know anything that happened to it before it got to the grocery store or your fridge. Or you may feel connected to it because your family has been cooking particular meals or using the same ingredients your whole life. -If you’ve lived somewhere else, are there similarities or differences between what and how you eat in Vancouver and in your previous home? -What is it like buying food? If you’re at the grocery story, what kind of food is available? Is it easy for you to get (based on cost, being able to find certain types of food, being able to get to the store)? Is fresh food easier or harder to access than packaged foods or fast foods? -What would you like Vancouver’s ‘food future’ to look like? How would you imagine yourself interacting with food in 10 years? 5. Continue to take photographs, making sure that they relate to your ideas for your food story. If you think your story will be about family history, you might want to collect some old family photos to include in your digital story. 6. You have 27 shots on your camera. Use them all! 17 This worksheet was given to the younger youth to assist them in taking photographs between workshops, and to help them start generating themes for their personal food stories. B. BRAINSTORMING ACTIVITY: GENERATING STORY IDEAS What kinds of food or meals do you usually eat? Where do you/your family buy food? Is it easy for you to get (is it expensive, hard to find certain types of food, hard to get to the store)? Is fresh food easier or harder to access than packaged foods or fast foods? How do you cook or prepare the foods you like to eat? Do you have a specal memory about cooking/eating/growing food? (This could be about a family recipe or meal that your part- ner enjoys. Do they have food traditions that have been passed on through their family?) Was there a moment when your relationship to food changed? (maybe the first time you cooked your own meal for yourself, had a really special meal, or thought differently about what you were eating) How does living in a big urban city affect your relationship with food? If you’ve lived somewhere else, are there similarities or differences between what and how you eat in Vancouver and in your previous home? What would you like Vancouver’s ‘food future’ to look like? How would you imagine yourself buying/cooking/eating food in 10 years? Have any themes come up in your answers (health, family, cost of food, culture, the environment, celebration…)? Why are these themes important to you? What kind of story could you tell based on the things we have talked about? What would your story be about? How would your story start? What happens next? How does your story end? What kinds of photos would you need to help tell this story? What message do you want your story to share? What do you want the viewer to remember? Why is your story important? What does it mean to you? How can other people relate to it? 18 This activity sheet was used to help the youth participants think about their daily interactions with food, and the value they place on different aspects of the food system. These values and experiences provided themes for their personal food stories.


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