SurreyCares grants $9,000 to A Rocha Canada to Provide Healthy Meals for Surrey Seniors & Newcomers.

We have presented a $9,000 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to A Rocha Canada’s Farm to Families program during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program addresses food security needs among seniors and newcomers in Surrey who face income, literacy, transportation, language, and health barriers to accessing nutritious food and social interactions. A Rocha does this through food literacy education and fresh vegetable donations provided in an accessible, community-oriented, and culturally sensitive manner.

A Rocha is an international conservation organization that engages in scientific research, environmental education, community-based conservation, and sustainable agriculture in 20 countries. Whether it is by restoring salmon habitat, inspiring school children, feeding and equipping under-served families, connecting isolated seniors to the community, or training young scientists, A Rocha transforms people and places through locally-supported projects.

In BC, A Rocha’s primary focus is the Little Campbell River. Their conservation team monitors endangered species and restores habitats with assistance from community partners. They also have a sustainable agricultural program that educates people about how the farming and food consumption activities of a community affect the environment.

Sandra Dumitras, Program Coordinator at A Rocha

“Before the pandemic began, we would observe thousands of people coming on-site to A Rocha’s BC Centre,” expressed Sandra Dumitras, Program Coordinator at A Rocha. “We had community events, volunteer days, and immersion experiences in which lots of different schools participated. Even seniors groups and families come here for a farm day.”

With COVID-19, A Rocha has had to restrict their numbers of visitors to maintain social distancing protocols. Some of the youth programs are continuing with COVID safety protocols. However, the number of attendees has significantly dropped, and outreach programs have been cancelled. Their Farm to Families program has not held a session for those most vulnerable in these trying times, such as seniors, newly arrived families, or at-risk families. This program had certain activities such as meals together, outdoor tasks, and educational tours to benefit their mental and physical well-being.

“We have thankfully been able to continue operating and increase some of the impact as well as the number of partnerships in the community by thinking of creative new ways to do things,” remarked Sandra Dumitras. “The funding we received from SurreyCares was essential for us to acquire the resources to continue operating and to fulfill the tasks our partnered agencies have relied on for years. Some of these tasks have been to provide fresh vegetables grown here on the farm. We share these vegetables with people in the community who lack access to fresh produce. We are partnered with organizations such as the Senior Come Share Society of White Rock and Umoja Operation Compassion Society to provide families with veggies and food literacy programs.”

The talented team had to think of new ways to interact with people by pivoting from their traditional means. They have started doing phone-based programming, phone check-ins, and Zoom workshops. The number of participants has been surprisingly high, and the response has been quite positive. The literacy program team has also visited partner sites to bring their food literacy sessions to the people.

This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada’s $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round and now over $575,000 in the second round.

“Food security is an essential issue that existed in our community before the pandemic. However, this issue has been on the rise ever since. SurreyCares is always eager to partner with organizations such as A Rocha as they address these crucial issues while preserving and rehabilitating our environment. In these times, we must not forget our environmental responsibilities. We at SurreyCares are advocating for additional funding as the need for food security is still high,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation.

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.

Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Surrey Community Relief Fund. In partnership with the Surrey Now-Leader, Surrey Board of Trade, and The Saheli Foundation, the goal is to raise $500,000 to support the most vulnerable populations in Surrey.

To learn more about A Rocha, visit their website at https://arocha.ca/

8 views