“We’ve had community members tell us, ‘It’s amazing that you’re still able to provide food while your building is being redeveloped,” shared Cristien Donhuysen, Program Manager.
It’s been over a year since we’ve launched our FIRST Food Truck, which provides free meals to Downtown Eastside community members every weekday at lunchtime. Through the food truck, we serve an average of 1,000 meals each week—which is more than we were able to serve from our take-out window during the pandemic.
“We’re providing a unique service that no one else is doing,” says Cristien.
The food truck started as an innovative way for us to continue serving community meals during the redevelopment of 320 East Hastings.
Cristien has seen the benefits of serving meals from a mobile truck. Its visibility and accessibility mean that more people can get much-needed nutritious meals.
She explains: “A lot of people who are on the street are afraid to leave their stuff unattended. Before the food truck, community members had to go into the building to line up and sit down to eat. But with the food truck, they can stand in line and keep an eye on their stuff. Or if they’re on a bike, they can grab their food and go.”
In August 2022, we started hosting Food Truck Sponsorships for corporate, community, or faith groups to sponsor a meal and volunteer to serve lunch.
“The primary purpose of this program is to use group engagements to break down barriers and change hearts and minds,” explains Will Goldbeck, Assistant Development Manager. “There is a lot of harmful stigma about people who live in the DTES and the people we serve, and by getting people on the ground in the neighbourhood, we find we can very quickly change those mindsets. When folks can take the time to come down as a group and engage with the community, it has the potential to change their view of the neighbourhood and the people we serve.”
This past summer, we hosted a food truck sponsorship for a group from Sandstorm Gold Royalties. They shared their gratitude for the opportunity: “The food truck was an eye-opening experience for how much we let socialized stigma impact our view of others struggling to survive, and enabled the people in our group to reset a bit and change their perception of the people we were serving. Many were impressed by the gratitude of those we were serving.”