We all know the expression, “beggars can’t be choosers.”

With one month left before Christmas, Downtown Eastside restaurant mogul Mark Brand Inc has launched a meal token program targeting clientele who would like to support people in need. The idea is that the meal token, which goes for $2.25, can be given to panhandlers in place of spare change. Each token is redeemable for a breakfast sandwich at the window of Save-On-Meats, Mark Brand Inc’s only location affordable for those on modest incomes.

The following description of the program is found in the press release announcing the program:

“The Meal Tokens solve the dilemma that many people find themselves in. The reality is that people are hesitant to give money rather than food to people who they see on the street. With the Meal Tokens, donors can rest assured that what they give will be going towards providing much needed sustenance and at the same time, supporting Save on Meats’ social enterprise.”

City Hall is taking steps towards removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, leaving high-cost housing and new traffic problems in their place. The City claims that these new traffic problems can be solved by expanding one of the streets into the historic neighborhood of Strathcona. The two sites that are under threat of displacement are the Cottonwood and Strathcona community gardens, two of the oldest and largest in community gardens in town. The newer Purple Thistle Food Forest at Vernon and Charles streets, only a few blocks away, would also be threatened.

These gardens provide some of the city’s most peaceful green space and essential food sources for many Downtown Eastside residents. After this growing season and generations of use, the last thing many gardeners want is to have to struggle to protect their community from a major construction development.

The proposed street expansion on either Prior or Malkin would pave over significant portions of the historic gardens. The bulk of Cottonwood Garden’s three acres is spread along the length of Malkin street (see image below). In the expansion plans, Malkin would widen to six lanes, not including the bike lanes and dividers which gardeners estimate would reach up to eight lanes of space. According to City plans, this would destroy the majority of the garden. If the remaining space is spared by redevelopment, gardeners are concerned that this final sliver would be flooded with noise and air pollution.