We know food to be a communicative instrument and hence use its offering as an instrument of community building.
The average DTES resident lives with one or more serious health issues, has a compromised immune system and is under-housed. Coupled with extreme material poverty, the lack of adequate housing renders people incapable of providing themselves with adequate nutrition. Typical housing quarters provide one small room with no cooking facilities or storage for foodstuffs. Many of our Neighbours live in Single Room Occupancy units (SROs) in the downtown eastside of Vancouver.
The average DTES diet consists of a great deal of starch (in the form of white rice and pasta); copious amounts of tasteless coffee garnished with coffee whitener (an addictive petroleum by-product) and refined sugar; endless soup; day old pastries and donuts; dishes made with an alarming amount of ‘taste enhancing’ chemical additives; and processed ‘foods’. These ‘foods’ do not support positive health outcomes for our neighbours, but remain omnipresent in our community.
What is not found in the average DTES diet is local seasonal fresh produce; sweets which are healthy (eg dates and figs); dishes made without additives and refined sugars; homemade vinaigrettes; alternatives to dairy products; and generally speaking fresh, identifiable foods. These are the things that the Neighbourhood House works to make available for our neighbours.
When one is materially poor, the first things lost are privacy and choice. Offering people a choice of the foods they ingest is a critical piece of the NH food philosophy. It’s a commonly held myth that those living in poverty don’t have nutritional knowledge or aspirations.
DTES NH Food Guidelines
Food allergens, diabetes, Hep C, HIV/AIDS, heart and stroke health are considered in our menu planning. Recipe ingredients are listed. We use only non-toxic cleaning products and purchase Fair Trade coffees and teas. We avoid refined sugars, processed foods, gluten, non-stick cookware, silicone, aluminum foil/pots/pans, plastics for prepping/cooking/ serving/storing foods, Eurocentric menus and soup, as it’s the food relentlessly offered to those living in material poverty. We take responsibility for educating existing and potential food donors about which foodstuffs are the ones on which our neighbours thrive.