Caption: Lisa Wong, with VCH's SACY Leadership & Resiliency Program delivers meals in Vancouver
Vancouver Coastal Health’s SACY (Supporting and Connecting Youth) Leadership & Resiliency Program (LRP) team switched gears during the pandemic to focus on the basic needs of their clients.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, LRP has helped to deliver 56,000 meals, including to 23 youths and their families in Vancouver.
“When COVID-19 hit, the rug was pulled out from a lot of families regarding food security,” says Jen Donovan, who is the LRP Project Manager. “Whether it be no longer having access to school lunch programs or not feeling comfortable leaving home to go to the food bank or store.”
Access to good, healthy food is a need for many of the families that LRP works with. In an effort to help meet this need, LRP jumped at the chance to partner with FreshRoots on an initiative called LunchLabs to deliver pre-packed meals to families. In total, with the help of LRP volunteers, FreshRoots arranged the delivery of 56,000 meals, including to 23 youths and their families supported by LRP. Through this, LRP has been able to not only maintain in-person connections, but also grow LRP’s community presence during a difficult time when many are feeling disconnected.
SACY’s LRP is a youth engagement program that operates through schools in Vancouver with the aim of building up youth and their families through fostering connections to school and community. Prior to the pandemic, the program ran activities that included land-based challenges like kayaking, snowboarding, hiking and camping. Wellness groups, and large group dinners were also common.
“We are a holistic program, so when COVID-19 hit we had to pivot to make sure LRP youth and their family’s needs were being met in other ways,” Donovan.
In addition to LunchLabs, LRP’s COVID-19 response also involved pivoting to online engagement, such as an increased social media presence and online zoom groups. However, for those families who do not have internet access or a phone, or whose needs required in-person support, LRP staff were able to use this food program as a way to maintain a connection.
The team continued to be out in the community throughout COVID-19, particularly for those families who would have lost connection if the program went completely online.
“We were able to maintain outreach by delivering meals,” says Donovan. “The hope is that by not losing in-person connection with our youth and their families, they will have momentum for what’s to come, like getting back to school or connecting to other community groups.”
LRP aims to increase the skills and capacity of youth to be happy, healthy and strong members of their communities, and Jen credits her mighty team of seven for carrying on this work through the challenges of COVID-19.
“The team embodies VCH’s values. The whole team always steps up and says we can adapt to serve LRP youth and their families while embodying our values as a team,” reflects Donovan.
This is proven to be true through the words of folks who have received meals and connections from LRP staff:
"It was nice to be treated so kindly, especially when it was hard to ask for help.” - A mom
“The meals you have made for us are delicious! Thank you!” - A student
“We appreciate you guys!!! Times are tough for many and this has been an amazing relief program during these times when some families are trying to figure out each meal situation.” - Vancouver School Board Youth Worker