About the Project

The Downtown Eastside Kitchen Tables Project, a program of the Potluck Cafe Society, is improving the health of Downtown Eastside residents by increasing the availability and choice of nutritious food neighbourhood-wide. Based on a Right to Food philosophy, the project is a collaboration of residents, food and service providers to create a sustainable Downtown Eastside Food System that enables people to access, abundant healthy food in a dignified manner while creating jobs in the community.

History & Ambitions

It was the pre-existing committed and passionate work of countless DTES residents and workers in sister organizations which prepared the fertile terrain for the establishment of the DTES Kitchen Tables Project. The Project was co-founded in 2009 by the Potluck Cafe Society together with the DTES Neighbourhood House, each organization accomplishing innovative work in community nutrition, community development and the Right to Food.

Initially the impetus for the DTES Kitchen Tables Project came from the recognition that although many resources have been invested in the DTES, quality and nutritious food provision remains fractured, disconnected and ineffective. Much of the food available to DTES marginalized and nutritionally vulnerable residents does not adequately respond to the nutritional needs of the 1000s living with compromised immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and Diabetes, nor does it address sheer malnutrition. The current DTES charitable food system especially does not meet the needs of the most vulnerable and is limited in terms of community capacity building, job creation and overall Community Economic Development. There is a misperception that there is a great deal of food available in the DTES, when in fact what is available is meager, often inadequate and/or has no nutritive value and for the most part the methods by which food is distributed are both inefficient and lack the dignity that all individuals deserve, regardless of their socio-economic status. Moreover, there has and continues to be inadequate funding for food in the DTES and in other neighbourhoods across Canada.

The DTES Kitchen Tables Project is unique in that it is a comprehensive and collaborative approach to reforming the DTES food system in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. The approach is intentional and comprehensive, filling a formidable gap as it addresses the inadequacies of the DTES food system. It operates by organizational collaboration, includes residents and embraces existing food providers and processes. The DTES Kitchen Tables Project priorities are:

  • To consider the food solution continuum in the DTES from seed to compost.
  • To develop food solutions which are sustainable in terms of health benefits, employment and impact on economic development and the environment.
  • To develop solutions which maximize efficiencies in terms of time and resources, both for organizations which provide food and DTES residents who access food.
  • To develop solutions which reduce duplication and redundancy.
  • To develop innovative and efficient food distribution methods.
  • To develop food solutions which also build community capacity – education, skills, knowledge, jobs and income security.
  • To create quality food standards and guidelines for the DTES community.
  • To develop solutions which support the local economy – DTES and rural BC, urban and rural growers.
  • To implement DTES food solution Best Practices which are scalable and transferable – intended to be shared with other communities.

Phase 1 – RESEARCH

Phase 1 began in October 2009 by the Potluck Cafe Society and DTES Neighbourhood House with the support of the Public Health Agency of Canada and ended in March 2010 with the completion of a Community Led Food Action Plan Report. Through our community engagement in Phase 1 which included one on one surveys with 370 individual DTES residents and meetings with 40 stakeholder organizational representatives representing all segments of the food system (health care professionals, nutritionists, food growers/suppliers, food/non-food providing DTES organizations, chefs, other food professionals, researchers and policymakers), we were able to identify the gaps in the current DTES neighbourhood food system. In response, the Action Plan has identified community needs and priorities, summarized in 7 Food Solutions:

No. 1
Creating Nutritional & Food Quality Standards

(think fresh protein, fruits & vegetables)
No. 2
Menu & Recipe Development

(think creative, tasty and nutritious meals)
No. 3
Effective Food Procurement

(think collective buying from local BC & Canadian Farmers)
No. 5
Food Preparation & Processing

(think creating diverse food related ‘jobs’)
No. 5
Food Distribution

(think no long lineups and many neighbourhood distribution points)
No. 6
Engaging Food Professionals

(think partnering with creative Chefs with proven kitchen processes and procedures)
No. 7
Greening DTES Kitchens

(think food composting & recycling through existing DTES social enterprises)

Phase 2 – PLANNING

Phase 2 of the DTES Kitchen Tables Project has been completed with support from Vancity Community Foundation, City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Phase 2 involved developing Business Plans for the implementation of the 7 Food Solutions identified by the community. In Phase 2, diligent and thorough business planning included our multiple stakeholders as well as focus groups that involve both DTES organizations and residents. Phase 2 has also identified specific programs and activities that truly meet the needs of the DTES community in a collective, realistic and sustainable manner over the short, mid, and long term.

Phase 3 – ACTION

Phase 3 of the DTES Kitchen Tables Project is all about taking action and the heart of the Project. Now underway in 2011 and in the years that follow, Phase 3 involves the realization, rollout and implementation of the programs and activities identified in Phase 1 and developed in Phase 2. Our planning approach purposely considered short term, mid term and long term actions and activities, and developed specific plans for our short term objectives. We have already started to implement some activities in Solution No. 1 with the creation of Nutritional & Food Quality Standards and the hiring of a DTES Kitchen Tables Outreach Team. Listed below are all of the short term goals we will implement.

No. 1 Creating Nutritional & Food Quality Standards

  • Creation of Nutritional & Food Quality Standards that can be adopted community wide by both Residents and Organizations.
  • Nutritional & Food Quality Standards are available in hardcopy to DTES Residents and Food Provider Organizations.
  • Hiring of a DTES Kitchen Tables Outreach Team to animate the Nutritional & Food Quality Standards through Street Theatre Performances and Food Jeopardy across the DTES to engage both Residents and Organizations in nutritional awareness and the Right to Food philosophy.
  • Development of a DTES Kitchen Tables website that will serve as a communication and coordination hub for all DTES food related information.

No. 2 Menu Development & Recipes

  • Creation of nutritious and cost effective recipes for use by both individuals and organizations suitably portioned in S, M, L, XL sized batches.
  • Recipes will be distributed in hard copy and also available on the website in a DTES Kitchen Tables Recipe Bank.
  • The DTES Kitchen Tables Recipe Bank will grow as the variety and number of recipes increase.

No. 3 Food Procurement

  • Creation of a DTES Kitchen Tables Collective Procurement Mechanism that will:
  • Leverage collective purchasing power of existing DTES Food Providers that includes and benefits both Large and Small Food Provider Organizations.
  • Increase access to purchase low cost, quality fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins especially for small food provider organizations eg; Grade 2 fruit and vegetables.
  • Open up new, untapped purchasing channels to BC and Canadian farmers and growers
  • Creating a Food Donation Management Service that includes managing a Food Donation Database for DTES Food Provider Organizations that lists their food needs on a regular basis.
  • The above Database is matched with surplus, quality, food donations that arrive randomly to DTES Food Provider organizations that can be redistributed to other DTES Food Providers.
  • Contents and gaps within the Food Donation Database determine which categories of food donations the Project is required to solicit on behalf of all DTES Kitchen Tables collaborating organizations.

No. 4 Food Preparation & Processing

  • A pilot project that will prepare low-sodium, nutrient rich, no preservative chicken and vegetable stocks for sale to DTES Food Providers in place of high sodium powder soupstocks. The pilot will: Secure shared use of existing kitchen space from a sister organization/entrepreneur, equipment, storage space, staff and supervisory management and leverage the Collective Food Procurement Mechanism (Solution No. 3) and Professional Food Industry Expertise (Solution No. 6) to ensure ingredients and cost effectiveness. This pilot will provide market and operational research to determine viability and sustainability of this product leading to the development of other products that can be processed and prepped in the DTES for purchase by Food Provider Organizations.
  • DTES Kitchen Tables will develop a Signature Product for sale to Food Provider Organizations and the general public as a revenue generator for the DTES KitchenTables Project eg; Healthy Snacks.
  • Design a prep and processing system for surplus produce/proteins either donated or available at a very lost cost for purchase. The goal is to prep and process surplus quality produce/proteins and store for use at a later date.

No. 5 Food Distribution

  • Manage the mapping of food and meals across the DTES by updating the venues, hours and numbers of meals available each day on a regular basis. The DTES Kitchen Tables Website will serve as an online hub for this information. Information will also be posted in key locations on the ground and across the DTES for the majority of DTES residents who lack internet access.
  • Coordinate with DTES Food Providers the planning, scheduling and redistribution of holiday/special event meals in the DTES.
  • Invent social, people friendly mechanisms for eradicating food line-ups, including but not exclusive to the use of the DTES Kitchen Tables Outreach Team
  • Pilot a DTES Kitchen Tables Mobile Food Vendor Project which includes hiring DTES community staff to sell individual portion sized, healthy food products on the street across the neighbourhood. Healthy items that are already prepared by kitchens and food establishments in the DTES eg; Potluck Café & Catering, Save On Meats and several others would be sold at affordable price points by these Vendors.

No. 6 Professional Food Industry Expertise

  • Secure and manage pro bono Food Service Professionals to work and consult with DTES Food Providers to improve the efficiency of their kitchen operations.
  • Refine the Food Service Professional model, document its efficacy/cost effectiveness and establish a pricing structure which would meet the performance needs and financial realities of both organizations and the Professionals in order to ensure this Solution’s long term sustainability

No. 7 Greening DTES Kitchens

  • Support DTES Food Providers with the implementation of composting and recycling services under the guidance of the DTES Kitchen Tables Project with the assistance of LOCO BC, Recycling Alternative and the DTES Kitchen Tables Outreach Team.
  • Negotiate with composting/recycling service provider Recycling Alternative to secure financially viable composting/recycling services for DTES Food Providers by using the power of our collective buying power and geographic routing hubs.
  • The DTES Kitchen Tables Project is a
    program of the Potluck Cafe Society.
    The Potluck Café Society is a registered
    Canadian Charity CRA No. 896213402.
    For more information about Potluck,
    please visit our website at

  • DTES Kitchen Tables acknowledges and honours the fact that our community lies
    within the Traditional Territory of the
    Coast Salish people.