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Muslim Food Bank receives $119,727 in grants for mental health and food support services

We've provided a $45,000.00 grant to Muslim Food Bank Community Services Society for its ASPIRE Mental Health & Social Wellness Program to support community members with regular check-ins and other social support. In addition, SurreyCares is providing a $74,727.00 grant for its COVID-19 Food Security Program to package essential food hampers targeting at-risk individuals to help them confront food-related difficulties during the pandemic.

"With COVID-19 displacing jobs and disproportionately affecting our most at-risk clients, we are facing a sharp rise in demand for our foodbank & other support services." Said Azim Dhaya, who is the Executive Director at Muslim Food Bank Community Services Society. "With self-isolation and other measures imposed by the government, we risk bringing back memories of overcrowded refugee camps and a traumatic state of being in 'limbo'. We, therefore, plan to minimize the effects of the pandemic by continuing access to our social workers and increasing our food support services."

“The COVID-19 crisis has increased mental health and food security issues with vulnerable populations who are already struggling with mental health issues, which makes them at a higher risk of being infected by diseases such as COVID-19.” Said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares. “It’s critical that we allocate funding to support vulnerable populations in our community.”

Muslim food bank began in a garage, then moved to a mosque, and now finally are proud to be working from their warehouse.

“Having a large space has always been a goal because it allows us to have so many different activities going on at once,” said Mainu Ahmed, in reference to their wide range of programs such as the caseworker program, employment program, dental-care program, summer school program, and more.

Muslim Food Bank has always had the “goal of finding out why people are coming to the food bank,” meaning they search for problems that may be deeper rooted, leading to a chain reaction that brings that person to the food bank for support.

Taking everyday people and putting them through a caseworker training crash course teaches caseworkers many skills, including:

- How to listen without judgement

- The art of questioning

- Trauma management

“We have had situations where a person is coming in for food, but in reality, they have other problems that we can help with.” says Mainu Ahmed and gives the example of a single mother coming in with food insecurity; speaks minimal English. They connect her to a course on learning English, that specifically has childcare services included. From there, they are able to provide motivation to the mother which helps her to ultimately find employment. “What we are doing, is setting that person up for success,” explained Mainu.

COVID has brought a new focus on mental health programs. “Many refugee claimants are not eligible for Canadian benefits, [whereas] we don’t have any obligations to turn people away; we can help anyone.”

“We have seen clients who get settled and come back later to become a caseworker. They are the best caseworkers because they understand what people are going through, and they can’t wait to give back to the community”

The grants are made possible through the Government of Canada's new $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares.

The Emergency Community Support Fund is being delivered through a national partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, United Way Centraide Canada and the Canadian Red Cross.

"We’re grateful to the Government of Canada for this much-needed boost benefitting local charities," said John Lawson, Chair of SurreyCares. “Charities and non-profit organizations have been leading the charge to assist those who need it most in the fight against COVID-19. We know the need for funding is still significant and we’re continuing to advocate for additional emergency funds.”



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