Food for Thought

While preparing a meal, have you ever paused and thought, “How did I learn how to do this?” Chances are that part of your youth was spent hanging around a kitchen where an adult, or adults, were preparing a meal. Perhaps you even assisted in the meal prep.

For most of us, meal planning and preparation doesn’t require a lot of extra thought. However, for youth who did not have that influential adult in their lives, preparing a nutritional meal can feel very daunting.

Food is not only a building block of life, it’s often used as the focus for social and cultural gatherings. Learning how to prepare meals is a vital component to independent living.

What is the connection between vulnerable youth and the importance of nutrition and learning how to plan/prepare meals?

Here are a few statistics:

  • 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; possible impairment of cognitive and physiological functions; increase risk of infections; and exacerbating depression and substance abuse.
  • According to the Canada Food Price Report 2023, the biggest increases in food prices are expected to be seen in vegetables, dairy and meat, ingredients which are important for creating healthy and nutritious meals
  • Food cost will continue to rise another 9.2%

CHV Fills More Than Just Bellies

While it’s true that we meet the basic needs of youth (food, shelter, and clothing), we also fill their lives with the supports and tools necessary to transition into independence.

While at CHV, youth learn life skills like budgeting, meal planning, and cooking. Budgeting is important so that you know how much you have to spend on groceries. Meal planning incorporates budgeting and the knowledge of how to cook, so that you can shop for the most nutritious foods that you can get, given your budget. And cooking is not only important for sustaining oneself, but also for social occasions like potluck.

The renovations to CHV’s Pender building include a training kitchen where youth can learn and practise their culinary skills. In the meantime, youth are learning skills in the commercial-grade kitchen in the new building at Drake and Seymour.

Earlier this year, thanks to La Tablée des Chefs, youth at CHV participated in the like Cook Up Your Future program. During this five-week program, youth learned essential skills like proper knife skills, kitchen safety, food preparation safety, baking and cooking. Each week youth participated in a two-hour lesson that began with a demonstration. During these sessions, youth were supported by our own in-house chef and life skills coordinators, as they prepared the recipe of the week. The youth made a wide array of dishes ranging from homemade pizza to apple crumble. Our youth left each session with new skills, a full belly and leftovers for the next week. This program will continue throughout the year, with sessions running again in the summer, fall and winter.

Double the Recipe with CHV’s Spring Match

In 2022, the kitchen at CHV lovingly prepared over 96,000 meals!

CHV’s costs to care for vulnerable youth have been rising with inflation, and our weekly food costs have increased by 17% over the last year with no signs of dropping. In order to continue to provide meals, life skills programs, and holistic support for youth, we rely on community support.

Thanks to the generosity of Vancouver International Airport, from now until June 30th, all donations up to $100,000, will be matched for double the impact!

Our Spring Match Campaign advocates for the future of young people experiencing homelessness and allows our community to have double the impact in helping at-risk youth build better futures.