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
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, Potluck
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
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 interested
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@portlandhotel.com