REPSA Lunch N’ Learn: January 25th

Chloe is a Master’s student in Resource and Environmental Planning at SFU, and part of the Resource and Environmental Planning Students Association (REPSA). She is interested in sustainable urban planning, particularly the importance of nature and green-space in cities that create a sense of place.

REPSA works to organize events where students connect with professional planners to learn about the range of employment opportunities after graduation. Lunch N’ Learns are a monthly event where we invite professional planners to come and give informal sessions about either their work or planning interests, and students are invited to come eat lunch and engage in discussions. We received the Embark grant for Lunch N’ Learn, which went towards providing a vegetarian lunch for the students and speaker. Without the sustainability grant from Embark we would not have been able to put on this event. 

On January 25th Ian Marcuse came to SFU to talk to students about the relationship between food security and urban planning. Ian Marcuse has been part of the Grandview Woodland Food Connection (GWFC) since 2008. The GWFC organizes community potlucks and bulk buying of food for the more vulnerable communities around East Vancouver. Though the GWFC runs a number of different programs, the focus of Ian’s talk was his work with Britannia School gardens, where he plans and programs community gardens with the elementary school students. 

Though community gardens Britannia Secondary School aims to empower youth and help them make connections with the food that they eat. The students at Britannia school have gardening as part of their daily school schedule. It enables kids to be active, learn about healthy eating, get outside and strengthen social connections with each other. Ian connects with other organizations such as the Environmental Youth Association and University students at UBC to teach kids about wider environmental and health issues. Through the program, Ian has seen a change in the culture of the school and the students. “It’s radical”, says Ian Marcuse, “these students really see the fruits of their labour”.

Ian Marcuse started the planning process with Britannia School in 2010, where he took an innovative approach by engaging the students in the planning process. In conjunction with Co-design, a Vancouver based planning consulting company, Ian Marcuse held design charrettes with the students at teachers. Students and teachers described a vision of their future community garden, where imagination was the only boundary. The school facilities and maintenance department was involved during the process as well. Though the ideas were not all feasible within the school regulations, the head groundskeeper supported the students' ideas to the best of his abilities. The end result of five years of planning and programming is a beautiful and revolutionary space.


Ian Marcuse wonders if he is actually creating structural change in society, but he has seen from first hand experience the support in social connection and learning from other people that’s offered by community gardening. Ian Marcuse’s newest project is a First Nations food and medicinal garden, where FN children will learn hands on the traditional ecological knowledge of their culture. The planning and planting is set to happen this summer.

Through the planning of the Britannia School Gardens, Ian involved the students in every step of the process. He really highlighted the importance of involving community when trying to engage in sustainable planning, because people will feel more connected and invested in something they’ve helped create. Though Ian’s project is very local, it creates a very optimistic message for the world: through education, awareness and community engagement we can reach a sustainable future.

 For more information see here.

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