Students to provide food for homeless in Marpole

Kitchen on a Mission behind food service for modular housing complex

A high school student-led organization that delivers food to shelters around the city plans to extend its service to a new housing complex to be built in Marpole for homeless people.

Ishmam Bhuiyan is a 16-year-old student at Churchill Secondary and the president of Kitchen on a Mission, a food service that donates food to homeless shelters. It was originally started by a former Churchill student, Kristen Anderson.

Bhuiyan is also involved with a new Facebook group ‘Marpole Students for Modular Housing’, which blossomed from an opposing group ‘Marpole Students Against Modular Housing.’

marpolestudents

Over the past few weeks, since the City of Vancouver announced their plan to build temporary modular housing at 59th Avenue and Heather Street, hundreds of Marpole residents have come out to protest. The protesters consisted primarily of parents voicing their fears that the housing will put their children’s safety at risk who attend nearby schools.

“We originally saw another Facebook page that was trying to use our voice and present views that Churchill students didn’t actually have and they organized a protest on 57th and Heather which didn’t have any students attend,” Bhuiyan said. “So what we did was create a platform for people to actually voice their opinions and views on the issues. It was also an effort to combat a lot of stigma and hateful attitudes towards homeless people that were founded on nothing. These people were forming opinions of people they’ve never met before.”

Bhuiyan, along with 76 other student volunteers from Kitchen on a Mission, volunteers at 13 homeless shelters around Vancouver. He personally volunteers at Salvation Army Belkin House, Wish Society, Lookout Society and Covenant House.

Kitchen on a Mission does $7,800 a week in deliveries and approximately $483,000 worth of food donations for shelters a year. This is possible through 26 weekly shifts of students from six different secondary schools with help from UBC as well, according to Bhuiyan.  

Other high schools involved with Kitchen on a Mission include Eric Hamber, Lord Byng, Burnaby South, St. Georges, and Steinbach Secondary.

“Going forward with the modular housing units is working out a plan to support the new housing units with food because we are living in a neighbourhood where there aren’t many restaurants or food places around that are affordable. We don’t have the resources to feed 78 new units that are coming in,” Bhuiyan said.

In response to the efforts of Kitchen on a Mission to ensure food needs for residents of the temporary modular housing on 59th Avenue and Heather Street, the Salvation Army Belkin House is “open to having some type of food bank set-up” where they will connect with Kitchen on a Mission.

Alvin Chong, Food Services Manager at Salvation Army Belkin House, said they offered a volunteer opportunity for the Churchill group.

“A year ago I started to notice an increase in fruits, vegetables, yogurt, dairy and cheese products, that were coming in boxes,” Chong said. “I couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from.”

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Alvin Chong – Food Services Manager at Salvation Army Belkin House

Almost a year later, Chong received an email from Ishmam’s father saying that the food being delivered was an initiative from Kitchen on a Mission.

The food that Kitchen on a Mission delivers to shelters comes from various grocery stores around Vancouver whose shelf life will soon surpass the ‘best-before’ date. This doesn’t mean it’s gone bad, which is a common misconception among consumers.

“It’s my job as a food safe instructor is to promote and help the public understand that there is a difference between expiry and best-before and you still can continue to use best-before product and that’s why a lot of the products we are receiving tend to be dairy products, fruit and vegetables,” Chong said. “There is a misconception about blemished food that the consumer will shy away from as well. But, you know, we certainly are able to use it.”

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