Transforming Space to Promote Food Security

Food is a unifier” – Sherlyne Omangi, Participant

Collaborative Planning to create Grassroots Change

Nestled in the heart of a small community called Abbotsford in British Columbia, Canada, local creators, farmers and an array of entrepreneurs now have a space to showcase their products, facilitate knowledge-transfer and ultimately reach the community with family-friendly entertainment and products.

Through the Global Community Lab, fourty students were taught how to facilitate tactical urbanism by launching the successful Rail District Market. This market project has sustainably bridged the gap from farm to table, artist to collector, and educator to student while providing an equitable, safe space for families and children to flourish.

Creating a Space for Localize Knowledge-Transfer & Food-Security

The goal of the project was to create a low-cost, pop up food market to rally the Abbotsford community and create a platform for conversations about food security, and a space for selling and knowledge-transfer.

Using an old, unused building in downtown, historic Abbotsford as the space for launching the pop-up market, over 25 vendors attended to showcase their knowledge and products, and 400 people from the community arrived to learn more and buy locally.

Building a Sustainable Market

This project has now helped local businesses to recognize the importance of a weekly, local market space in Abbotsford. Since the launch of the pop-up market in 2018, the Rail District Market has occurred weekly to support the networks made between local farmers, artisans, creators, entrepreneurs and the local families that support them.

“It is now clear to me that when you create quick low-cost changes to the built environment, it sure does inspire and improve neighbourhoods and gathering spaces; and the most exciting part was being involved in such an exciting and interactive experience.” – Sherlyne Omangi, Participant

This tangible form of tactical urbanism coordinated by the Global Community Lab has facilitated a sustainable space for knowledge-transfer, networking, local buying and selling, and helped the community recognize the importance of such a needed space for the promotion of food security and local businesses.

“Friendships were made, wisdom was shared and knowledge acquired” – Edith Kemunto, Participant

2 thoughts on “Rail District Community Market

    Blog post by Jack Bebbington.

    From May until now I’ve participated in Geog/GD 464 geography and graphic design course at UFV where we looked at tactical urbanism around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. We studied city management and development in developing cities like Nairobi, Kenya as well as research on how cities around the world are managing with quarantine and new social distancing and sanitation protocols. We learned skills in framing design challenges for food security, public spaces, sanitation for public health, homelessness/housing, and culture and arts.

    My group’s assignment for the course was to redesign the concept of patios, keeping in mind social distancing and knowledge of what Covid-19 has done to the restaurant industry and the economy. So we set off with looking at what other countries as well as local businesses have been doing once they were allowed to reopen with certain restrictions.

    Many places created visual forms of how to keep socially distant. These examples consisted of mannequins at tables, stickers on the ground 2 meters apart, bubbles around tables and areas with painted circles around that visually represent safe distant areas (Humphries, M. 2020). These examples are all good and can definitely become a normal way of life in a post-pandemic world.

    Our project focused on helping local businesses expand their dining spaces since many restaurants have either not allowed dine-in services or have been working at 50% capacity (No longer a protocol as of June 11)(McLean, H. 2020). So we came up with the Abbey Patty, “Our vision was to repurpose underused vacant spaces and lots within the Historic downtown area of Abbotsford and rejuvenate them into outdoor patio spaces that would allow the restaurants, cafes, bistros and bakeries in the area to extend their business while social distancing is a national priority. This patio space would be within a short walking distance to many of the businesses making delivery easy without any secondary apps like Skip the Dishes, and customers can easily order take out and walk to the patio.”

    After all the research, thoughtful discussions and time for reflection it’s clear that the world panicked when Covid-19 first began to spread. With supermarkets running out of toilet paper and other supplies, many businesses and industries closing down and people being forced into their homes to isolate or quarantine to keep everyone safe. Now that cities have had time to think and plan, life is starting to somewhat get back to normal. However, many governments, and people, see that we as a society need to change. We have seen nature take over as people have been self isolating; animals are roaming into cities with deer in the parks in the U.K., penguins in cape town, coyotes in San Francisco and dolphins and jellyfish returning to the once boat busy areas near Venice, and the climate crisis is slowing down (Guardian News, 2020) (The Sun, 2020).

    The global quarantines have shown how quickly the world changes with studies indicating that nitrogen dioxide over China, Europe and the Americas being reduced by up to 30% ( 2020.). This evidence has raised thoughts that post-pandemic life should not go back to the way it was and we need to build our cities to become greener for the planet.

    As Covid-19 cases have declined in B.C people are beginning to go back to work with many schools and businesses moving to an online format with lessons, menus, meetings etc. resulting in people having to work, or study, from home. The quarantines have had people isolated in their homes from weeks to months at a time. This has raised concerns of mental health, especially in highly populated cities where the majority of the population live in small apartments (Great Big Story, 2020). We as a class have presented on this matter with ideas that could help cities provide safe places for people to “escape”.

    It will be interesting to see how society changes as well as what steps our governments will take to change the way city spaces are used now that a pandemic has disrupted the economy, changed people’s lifestyles and given people a view of a greener future. However, it will not be just our government’s job to make these changes. Citizens will have to participate in the changes by urging governments to implement and enforce them, keep up with social distancing and ensure proper sanitation protocols.


    “COVID-19: Nitrogen Dioxide over China.” 2020. Esa.Int. 2020.

    Guardian News. (2020). Dolphins and fish: nature moves into spaces left empty by Italian coronavirus quarantine [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

    Great Big Story. (2020). How Coronavirus Has Changed Lives Around the World [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

    Humphries, M. (2020, June 16). 18 ways restaurants are getting social distancing right – Insider. Insider; Insider.

    McLean, H. (2020, June 11). BC restaurants, bars no longer limited to 50% capacity for dine-in patrons. Dailyhive.Com; Daily Hive.
    ‌Sun, T. (2020). Wild animals take over lockdown cities around the world [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

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