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The Pilot Project That Really Took Off!

Some of you may have heard of Covey’s Cupboard. It started out as a pilot project to see if vulnerable youth required a resource to access groceries. It soon became apparent that there was a great need for such a service.

The demand quickly became greater than the supply.

A Note About Nutrition

Youth are one of the fastest growing and most vulnerable subgroups of the homeless population. A study conducted on Toronto’s homeless youth population found that youth facing homelessness were nutritionally vulnerable.

Being nutritionally vulnerable has significant ramifications including: poor health, which is a barrier to obtaining and maintaining employment; eating fast food because it’s inexpensive and immediately consumable (many youth lack access to proper food storage); and possible impairment of cognitive and physiological functions; increase risk of infections; and exacerbating depression and substance abuse.

Why the Need?

In a word—barriers.

Financial barriers: Nutritious food is prohibitively expensive. Many youth have to use all of their financial resources to stay in an SRO, which results in little or no money for food. Many SROs do not have fridges, or allow any kind of cooking (for fire safety reasons).

Storage barriers: Many youth do not have refrigeration facilities available for milk and other perishables. If youth are living on the street, they have no storage facilities. A lack of fruit, vegetables, dairy, and protein can contribute to food insecurity. Some services only provide food that requires the use of kitchen facilities.

Accessibility barriers: A service may be too far away, or too far to away to carry goods without transportation. Some services only operate on certain days/at certain times, which may not coincide with a youth’s work schedule.

Trauma barriers: There may be a service that triggers a childhood memory, or perhaps the youth had a bad experience the last time they accessed that service. Youth may also feel stigmatized.

Dependent barriers: Some youth are not only taking care of themselves, but have siblings with disabilities who they are also taking care of.

Why Covey’s Cupboard?

Through our partnership with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, we are able to provide healthy nonperishables such as granola bars, canned tuna, and fruit cups as part of our offering.

We serve all youth with absolute respect. Youth feel comfortable coming to Covey’s Cupboard.

Youth get to choose which foods they’d like, so they are empowered with the freedom of choice.

We now have a fridge, so we are able to offer perishables, like milk, and frozen foods.

Youth can access this service, once a week, from 9–12 and 2–5 from Monday to Friday.

Covey’s Cupboard Needs Your Help!

The ability to offer perishables along with non-perishable goods has significantly increased our numbers and highlighted just how many youth struggle with food insecurity.

The first things to go are the perishables. An example is products like milk along with commodities like cereal. Even youth with no refrigeration capabilities will grab milk and cereal and either eat the box in a day or share with other youth.

The number of perishables is limited, so only those who get to the Cupboard first will receive any.

The cost of nutritious food, like dairy and proteins, is prohibitive, so Covey’s Cupboard currently cannot meet the demands for such products.

Canned goods are often the last to go, because they are heavy, creating transportation challenges, and/or youth have no cooking facilities.

Due to the banning of plastic bags in Vancouver, many youth have challenges around how they can collect and transport goods.

Our most requested items are:

  • Boxes of Cereal (our most popular item)

  • Protein bars

  • Instant noodles in the bowl/cup (best for youth living on the street)

  • Beef Jerky (most requested item)

  • Fresh fruit

  • Meat

  • Frozen dinners

  • Snack items (pudding, fruit cups, granola bars etc.)

  • Reusable bags

Visit our website to learn more about ways to donate food items or on ways to partner with CHV, to support the most vulnerable in our community.