We have presented a $9,000 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to MOSAIC for their Community Lunch Box project. The Community Lunch Box Project aims to respond to food insecurity issues that newcomers (immigrants and refugees) face by providing a culturally safe and accessible food program. A dietician, health navigators, and settlement workers assess and identify household nutritional needs, develop culturally safe and nutritious diet plans, purchase food and groceries based on the list provided, and deliver food twice a week to newcomers' homes.
The Multilingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities (MOSAIC) was formed from the union of two local agencies, Language Aid and Multilingual Social Service, both of whom served the immigrant community in Vancouver. They serve immigrant, refugee, migrant, and mainstream communities in Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, throughout B.C., and overseas via online programs. MOSAIC is one of Canada's largest settlement and employment service organizations, made up of deeply committed people who support newcomers and those with diverse backgrounds.
Before the pandemic, MOSAIC operated by providing in-person services for refugees, immigrants, migrant workers, refugee claimants, and international students to help them to settle in Canada at multiple locations throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. These services include Children and Family Programs; Youth and Seniors Programs; Mental Health Programs; English Language Programs; Employment Services and Programs; Counselling and Health Programs.
However, when the pandemic started, they had to shift their services from in-person to virtual like many other organizations. The shift was not an easy process for them, especially since some of their clients had insufficient access to technological resources such as laptops, computers, or phones. This absence of resources led to a lack of access to timely information, a lack of support and financial resources, and exclusion from essential social benefits for newcomers. Food security was also a rising issue for the clients as many have lost their income due to the pandemic. Some clients could not visit the grocery stores due to lack of available transit, long line-ups, health risks, mobility issues, or fear of contracting COVID-19.
"The process of helping newcomers getting settled in Canada often starts from their host country before they come to Canada," said Sharon Butler, director of corporate partnerships and social investments at MOSAIC. "Like most organizations, we have been greatly impacted by COVID; we have had to move our services virtually. However, since we did not have the infrastructure, our IT department spent months getting the virtual process started to resume services. With a pandemic such as this, the vulnerable population becomes much more marginalized, and the divide is greater."
In response to these challenges, the team at MOSAIC delivered virtual programs and services to their clients. They were able to distribute technological resources to their clients that did not have access to them. They were also able to deliver programs such as The Community Lunch Box project and Virtual Teaching Kitchen, which helped secure food resources and provide culturally safe food recipes. The Community Lunch Box project lets clients develop their weekly grocery list and empowers them to take charge of the process and be actively involved. The project is led by staff members and volunteers from diverse backgrounds with multilingual capacities, ensuring increased accessibility for clients with limited English skills. The project benefits vulnerable newcomer families by addressing food security issues and connecting them to community resources. The Virtual Teaching Kitchen program is held online every Tuesday; this program aims to teach newcomer families culturally and nutritionally safe recipes utilizing food resources that would be available in their host countries.
"We are so appreciative of the Government of Canada and SurreyCares for supporting the Community Lunch Box Project. Food insecurity is a huge issue during the pandemic, and it can be difficult for newcomers to find access to food resources,” expressed Sharon Butler. “This program is beneficial as it helps our clients procure the food resources needed for culturally safe and nutritious meals instead of getting leftovers at a food bank."
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.
"SurreyCares is glad to partner with organizations that address crucial issues such as food security for the marginalized populations in our community," Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. "The Community Lunch Box is a wonderful program that employs innovative ways to provide nutritious and cultural food to the newcomers who have come to Canada looking for a healthy future for themselves and their families. Food security is an essential issue that pre-existed in our community and was made worse by the pandemic. We at SurreyCares are advocating for additional funding as the need for food security is still high."
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 MOSAIC, visit their website at https://www.mosaicbc.org/