Food Security Strategy – Multicultural Health Brokers

The Cause

The Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op (MCHB) began 24 years ago to support Edmonton’s newcomers with education, literacy, and employment to enhance health and well-being, and foster community building so families thrive and actively contribute to society. However, the needs of newcomers today, particularly those from refugee communities, have shifted the MCHB work. Newcomer families arrive and stay in crisis circumstances. They are unable to find housing and viable employment, to purchase food, and are fraught with mental health challenges and stress. The MCHBs are stretched unbearably thin to meet basic needs of newcomers. In partnership with the University of Alberta, the MCHB will work to meet a pressing need of these families: to develop a sustainable strategy increasing access to a basic necessity – safe, nutritious food.
The Community Resource Coordinator (CRC) will embrace the current trend toward “Food Rescue” to create this strategy. In essence, this trend is about networking to get hungry individuals food. This is done by accessing foods not served at catered events (see Food Runners in Vancouver), or thrown out by grocery stores due to compromised packaging or produce that is viable for only a few days (see the local pop-up restaurant Salvaged). Because it is believed that up to 40% of our food supply is wasted, this movement is taking hold internationally. In April, Starbucks in San Diego announced that stores will donate perishable food at the end of each day so that sandwiches end up in children’s lunches. In Edmonton, winners of the Leder School of Business Competition proposed a Salvage Supermarket to rescue local food and resell it for a minimal cost. Building on current food security initiatives, and End Poverty Edmonton, the CRC will establish a creative food rescue strategy that will meet the hunger needs of newcomers.

Who Will it Benefit?

The entire city has potential to feel the impact of this strategy but the main focus will be on two groups: the MCHBs themselves and the 2000 families they serve each year. Currently, 75 Brokers respond to families representing 25 different cultural and linguistic communities in Edmonton, who are in crisis (e.g., facing eviction, having no food) and as such, they cannot work with them in the ways that will eventually enable them to rise out of poverty (e.g., language and skills training). Because the CRC will address the need of immediate hunger through a food rescue kind of strategy, the Brokers will be able to work with families to get at the root causes of poverty and in turn, will decrease their stress and the overall strain on the organization. In the long term, newcomers are provided with the tools they need to thrive and as a result, they give back to their community, and other newcomers to Edmonton. The circle of support within these communities is strong, dignified and continuous and reaches to all corners of the city.
The impact this strategy will have can be measured by the number of family and community members fed, amount of food salvaged, the frequency of visits to the food bank by families (expected to decrease), the network of community partnerships that will be created and any shifts from the “crisis management mode” that the MCHB currently work in to skill development leading to viable employment and poverty relief.