There is no shortage of hungry people to feed in a city hobbled by the COVID-19 lockdown and that has spawned a massive network of people working for the common good.
LunchLAB launched last year to show kids how to grow and prepare food and by spring break more than 40 students had rotated through their cook’s training program, feeding 180 of their classmates twice a week.
So, when in-class instruction was suspended across B.C., the partners — Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, Growing Chefs!, Vancouver school board, and Ono Vancouver chef TJ Conwi — quickly pivoted to provide meals to hundreds of families.
That’s more than 5,500 meals a week for families identified by the VSB’s youth and family workers, said Alexa Pitoulis, interim executive director of Fresh Roots.
“We weren’t sure what we would do going into spring break, but our brains started turning and we worked out a way to support the school board’s effort to feed families that would have been benefiting from school lunch programs,” she said.
“PRS said yeah, you can keep cooking here and lent me the space,” he said. “So, we just started cooking for people, whoever needs it, in the Downtown Eastside and we just kept scaling up.”
That food is flowing out to the LunchLAB: Chefs for Families program, the Aboriginal Mother Centre, and the Carnegie Community Action Project, which recently received 300 pizzas and 200 tubs of macaroni and cheese.
The commercial kitchen at The Dirty Apron has been serving up 2,000 meals a week since the cooking school and deli were put on hiatus.
Chef David Robertson and many of his staff are donating their time to prepare free meals for seniors who cannot safely leave their homes, residents of SRO hotels and other vulnerable communities. They are working in collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Community College and Whole Way House.
Robertson’s crew is also supplying meals to frontline workers at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital through Feed the Frontline.
Salmon farmers Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood, Mowi Canada and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating 27,000 kilograms of salmon to food banks on Vancouver Island.
About 10,000 British Columbians depend on food banks and that demand is rising, according to Laura Lansink, executive director of Food Banks B.C.
“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” she said. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”