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Food for the Soul: Frozen Meal Line Creates Life Line for Homebound Residents of Canada’s Poorest Postal Code
By Liz Lougheed Green, Executive Director of Potluck Café Society

Potluck CaféIn an era of diminishing funding for nutrition-based programs, one innovative project is creating both the infrastructure and funds necessary to deliver meals to low-income, homebound residents living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The Potluck Café Society is a social enterprise focused on community economic development in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. With a goal to attend to the nutritional health of area residents, the organization’s latest enterprise, an organic, frozen meal line targeted at young families, has a vision to ward off malnutrition related issues amongst a growing number of community shut-ins.

This project began to take flight during the summer of 2002 after the Potluck Café Society conducted an extensive piece of research to look closely at the issue of homebound residents. The results were astounding with an estimated 200 – 300 residents in the demographic and mortality rates at very high levels.

Potluck initially worked to raise funds for a meal delivery service targeting the group, but when this proved futile they began looking for alternative revenue sources to support a home delivery program. The solution came to them in 2003 when the organization, which runs a highly successful catering operation, realized a market niche for nutritionally well-balanced, frozen meals aimed primarily at professional women with families.

“With a serious lack of funding available for food programs, PotPotluck Caféluck turned to what it does best and that is, create sustainable social enterprises with a view to fulfilling an identified community need”, said Wendy Pederson, Potluck’s founder and Downtown Eastside community member. “It just made sense for us to follow this path and to employ neighbourhood residents in the process.”

In late 2004, Potluck secured funding through the Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP) to carry out a feasibility study and business planning process. That process used an online survey with over 600 respondents to determine a desire for the product and to define its parameters.

The frozen meal line will be marketed in family size portions with attention to nutrition and a focus on ethnic dishes. Buy-in from two local organic distributors, Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) and Neighbours Organic Weekly BC (NOW BC), as well as a direct distribution plan, will help to build the necessary consumer base. Margins created through product sales will support individually portioned frozen meals for shut-ins, and a partnership with a local group called NeighbourLink will ensure a once a week delivery of meals to program participants.

Another facet of Potluck’s mandate is to employ area residents, and they specialize in working with and training those with serious barriers. In the Potluck tradition, project staff will be hired from within the local community and will learn a variety of skills including basic life skills as well as transferable culinary skills.

Potluck is now working towards project implementation and that process is expected to be complete and meals on distributors’ shelves by September 2005. If you are Potluck Caféinterested in knowing more about the Potluck Café Society and the Frozen Meals Project, contact Liz Lougheed Green at (604) 683-0073 ext. 379 or by email at café


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