March Is Nutrition Month

March is Nutrition Month in Canada. As our Minister of Health, the Honourable Mark Holland, explains, “Healthy eating matters, and is important at every age. It can help us feel good. It provides energy to power our bodies and minds to do the things that bring us joy and fulfilment. It provides essential nutrients to maintain our overall health. And, it helps prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But, it isn’t always easy to know how to make healthy food choices, or how to achieve healthy eating habits in our busy lives.”

Youth are one of the fastest growing and most vulnerable subgroups of the homeless population. Youth facing homelessness are often nutritionally vulnerable — which can cause significant impacts on both their physical and mental health.

According to Food Banks Canada:

  • In March of 2023, there were nearly 2 million visits to food banks, across Canada
  • 33% of food bank users, across Canada, are children
  • The percentage of Indigenous people accessing a food bank is 12 per cent, even though they represent only 5 per cent of the general population
  • 26.6 per cent of food bank clients are newcomers to Canada who have been in the country for 10 years or less

An Experiment

Island Pacific School, on Bowen Island, is a long-time supporter of CHV. Each year, Island Pacific School participates in their own Sleep Out fundraiser. As part of the Sleep Out experience and to better understand the challenges of being a young person on the street, the students from grade nine come to Vancouver and visit the Downtown Eastside.

In 2022, each student was given two dollars and told to try to find dinner. Some went to Costco, where they could get a hotdog and a pop. Some went to Dollarama, where they bought ramen bowls. One youth, who was a vegetarian had a small size serving of fries and relish packages. Using the small amounts of money that was left over, the students all chipped in and bought Timbits for dessert.

What the students learned from that experiment was: finding food for two dollars was difficult; the foods available for that price were nutritionally void; and if you had any dietary restrictions or health issues, you were going to have an even harder time trying to sustain yourself.

You can hear more about that experience on our Under One Roof podcast, “Through the Eyes of a Young Person” episode.

Nutrition at CHV

We take nutrition very seriously at CHV, because we know that food fuels your muscles, your brain cells, and your dreams.

Last year, we served 119,080 meals to youth across our programs and services.

Our Outreach teams bring food to youth, when they meet them where they are at. Our Drop-In Centre numbers have reached an all-time high — 80–100 youth, on average, visit each day! Here they can rest, shower, do laundry, and receive a hot meal.

Covey’s Cupboard

We have partnered with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank to help provide youth with groceries. As we all know, rising costs have made nutritious food out of reach for many people in Vancouver.

Covey’s Cupboard is located in our Drop-In Centre. Here, youth are able to select a variety of pantry items, fresh and frozen foods from the cupboard to build their own food bags. Youth can access the Cupboard once per week. It’s restocked every Wednesday, which makes that the most popular day of the week for people to access the Cupboard. It’s open any time that CSS is open.

A variety of youth use this vital service. Many are housed, but can’t afford groceries, others can’t make it to the Food Bank, and others have had adverse experiences in the community, due to the stigma around homelessness.

Youth have expressed that they feel comfortable in the Drop-In Centre and since they are there anyway, it’s very convenient to also pick up groceries there.

Over the past year, Covey’s Cupboard has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for this service.

As one of the assistant managers of our Community Support Services (Drop-In and Outreach) explains, “We’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for the Cupboard this past year, and we often run out of food the same day that it’s restocked. The demand is definitely for the fresh and frozen food items! We often run out of the in-demand food the same day that it’s restocked, so we’ve ended up with a line of people every week waiting to access the Cupboard. Even with the Food Bank supplies, we are definitely not keeping up with the demand.”

How You Can Help

We all know the importance of good nutrition. For youth, especially teens, it’s vital because poor nutrition can affect everything from health complications (including risk of disease later in life) to cognitive functions (which can affect their ability to learn).

Get informed

On Friday, March 15th, UBC is hosting The Role of Dietitians in Addressing Household Food Insecurity event, at Robson Square. Details are available at this site.

Support Covey’s Cupboard!

As one of our assistant managers mentioned, fresh and frozen foods are the first to go from the Cupboard. That would include fruits, vegetables and proteins. We would love to be able to provide more youth with these essential items!

Donations to Covey’s Cupboard will go directly to nutritionally supporting more youth who are in desperate need.

If you would like to support Covey’s Cupboard, please contact Cory Kaban, Coordinator, Gifts-in-Kind, by phone at 604-757-6064, or by email at