Studying – and responding to – food security issues on Vancouver’s westside

Aaron Peat, coordinator of Kits Cares, and volunteers from supporting churches celebrating Kits Cares’ fifth anniversary, November 23.

​​Karen Giesbrecht, dietitian and food security coordinator with Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, along with the Westside Food Collaborative and Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, recently released Food For All: Seniors’ Food Security in Vancouver’s Westside.

The 29-page summary of a community dialogue aims to better understand the experience of food access of older adults in the community.

The term ‘food insecurity’ refers to the state of being without reliable access to sufficient, affordable and appropriate food because of factors outside of one’s control. This is a concerning public health issue that disproportionately impacts vulnerable groups, including seniors.

Building on earlier studies, this report examines how food impacts seniors’ health, wellbeing and ability to live independently. It outlines recommended actions to help support seniors’ food access in Vancouver’s Westside, and beyond.

Most seniors who joined the community dialogue had not used food charity (i.e., food banks or hamper programs) and would prefer not to start, despite struggling to make ends meet. Some talked about how they chose to limit their food intake rather than reach out for support.

Kits Cares

Kits Cares setup at Redemption Church.

Some participants accessed community pantries and fridges, or the weekly groceries accessible through the Kits Cares Cafe, an initiative launched five years ago by several neighbourhood churches.

The program changed locations and models several times during the course of the pandemic, and is currently settled at Redemption Church, operating as a community market.

Other churches involved in Kits Cares are Kitsilano Christian Community, Canadian Memorial United and Tenth.

Debbie Hawker is Director of Missional Engagement at Tenth Church, which also hosts a community market at their main building in Mount Pleasant every other Tuesday; it is part of their Oasis Cafe (weekly lunch).  

She says:

Sharing food, conversation and friendship continue to be a beautiful expression of seeking the shalom of the neighbourhood. Guests are a central part of this community and many who have received help and care over the years have extended that same hospitality back to new faces in the community. Give thanks with us!”

Trinity Grace / 411 Seniors

The commons room at the 411 Seniors Centre, with participants gathering for lunch.

Another partnership committed to supporting seniors in their community involves Trinity Grace United Church and the 411 Seniors Centre in East Vancouver.

Trinity Grace had served a weekly breakfast in their community for many years, and now is supporting a weekly social lunch, in part funded through the UGM Transforming Communities Grant. (Applications for the 2024 grant cycle will be available in January 2024.) 

The 411 Seniors Centre is co-located with the Fraser Street Seniors Co-op at 19th and Fraser. With 58 units operated by the Community Land Trust, senior-focused services, facilities and housing are integrated to develop connections and supports for residents and 411 members and visitors.

A November 2023 United Way report (‘Aging in Uncertainty: The Growing Housing Crisis for BC Seniors’) thanked “411 Seniors Centre, and the agencies that work with them, who raised the alarm bells about the  growing crisis of housing insecurity (i.e., precarity) and homelessness within BC’s seniors’ population.”


One of the participants of the dialogue around food access for seniors voiced her concern about food access viscerally, commenting that, “I sometimes cannot sleep at night thinking about what I will eat when I get older.” We can and must address concerns like these.

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