Adapting Food Programs to Feed Families
When times are tough, putting food on the table can be an overwhelming stressor for families. One in six children in the province live in food insecure households, which is why most YWCA Metro Vancouver programs address food security, either directly or indirectly.
Food is served as a component of programs like the YWCA Single Mothers’ Support Groups, while it is the sole purpose of others like the Drop-In Hot Lunch or Family Breakfast at YWCA Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre in the Downtown Eastside.
Food security is also why we maintain and continue to expand the Rooftop Garden at the program centre downtown, and it was one of the first things we thought about when the pandemic struck.
The effects of the lockdown were swift. Families were immediately reluctant to travel by transit or wait in lines with children at the grocery store or food bank. Since low-income families can't stock up on groceries and were suddenly unable to shop around, as usual, to purchase items on sale, concern grew quickly.
Thanks to many generous donors and incredible staff and volunteers, we have adapted to ensure that mothers and their children are still able to access healthy meals during this difficult time.
A Collective Effort
The dining room at Crabtree Corner is normally bustling with people of all ages during breakfast and lunch; the hot lunch program (bagged lunches on Fridays) is one of the few women-only lunch offerings in the neighbourhood.
When the pandemic struck, the dining room fell practically silent, but Crabtree Corner staff and volunteers immediately pivoted. To respect social distancing protocol, they staggered work shifts and began making takeaway meals. As the weeks unfolded and staff were better able to understand the needs of the individual families, the food programs have evolved.
The first new food program that sprouted up provided families with bags of fresh produce, as well as gift cards and bus passes that would usually be given out during programs.
As donations steadily came in, grocery bags became food hampers. We were able to include grains and pasta so families could make complete dinners, and we began receiving donations of frozen ready-made meals and single-serve meals we could include. When we are able, we add milk and eggs to these hampers.
As mobility affects many families, we were happy to receive a grant to now be able to deliver 40 hampers a week to families. As of May 25, Crabtree served 1,163 individuals (approximately 640 children) through 342 hampers.
Much of this has been made possible by generous donations from FreshPoint, Vancouver Foundation, Canucks for Kids, Vancouver Food Runners (and the Giustra Foundation), Uber Eats, Luvo Inc., Community Food Centres Canada’s Good Food Access Fund, National Bank, Coho Commissary and many online donors.
The YWCA Rooftop Garden produced more than 1,600 lbs of fresh fruit and vegetables in 2019 and is being kept alive by the garden coordinator, Kim Peterson. The Rooftop Garden is a direct source of nutrition for food programs at Crabtree Corner and is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the downtown core. Rumour has it that a certain CEO can even be spotted pulling weeds and planting seedlings when no one else is around.
This article was originally published on YWCA's Contact Newsletter | Spring/Summer 2020 - COVID-19 Response Issue.