With help from the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, the Victoria Women’s Transition House aims to replace the sting of hunger with the comfort of food for survivors of intimate partner violence and abuse.
The Christmas Fund has raised $328,057.24 for Island charities so far in this year’s campaign, which began Nov. 12.
With skyrocketing grocery costs and high rents, many people, including women fleeing violence, are forced to cut down on the quality and quantity of their food — or, increasingly, to choose between paying rent or buying food.
Even before the pandemic, the non-profit organization that provides support and services to women, including housing, had recognized that food security was a common challenge among their clients, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
The Food Security Project, which launched in 2020, offers women fleeing domestic violence access to a wide variety of healthy and nutritious foods while staying at the organization’s 18-bed emergency shelter, or at the transitional housing program for women survivors age 50-plus, or taking part in other programs.
“Before we launched the project, we had a patchwork of sources for our food needs. With funding by the Times Colonist Christmas Fund and other sources, we have been able to hire a dedicated food co-ordinator, stretch our food budget, reduce food waste and make the operation more efficient,” said Susan Howard, a staff member of the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society. “The support from the fund is a huge piece of the project.”
Corinna H., the project’s co-ordinator, is an experienced cook and baker, with additional training in raw foods and vegan cooking. Along with supporting meal planning and food preparation at the shelter, she travels to collect donated food and sources discounted food from farms, food-distribution depots, grocery stores and bakeries.
Canned goods are few and far between in the kitchen, which is usually brimming with locally sourced produce, some harvested from a small garden plot managed by the society.
“It’s important to provide food to our women and children that is nutritious but that also comforts our clients,” said Corinna. “Many women at the shelter are suffering from trauma. We want them to feel cared for, supported and heard. In my work, I like to provide that support and gentle understanding through food — lots of choices and lots of delicious comfort.”
She said that her role is to increase access to food in a respectful manner, doing her best to accommodate shelter residents who have dietary restrictions due to medical conditions, religious practices or food preferences.
The Victoria Women’s Transition House opened its first emergency shelter in 1974. Its 70 staff, including relief workers, have served more than 3,000 clients and hundreds of children since its inception. It operates a 24-hour help line for women suffering intimate partner violence and abuse, at 250-385-6611.
For more information on programs and services, go to transitionhouse.net
HOW TO DONATE TO THE TIMES COLONIST CHRISTMAS FUND
• Donate online. Go to timescolonist.com/donate, which will take you to our CanadaHelps page. The site is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.
• Donate by mail. Send a cheque to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 201-655 Tyee Road, Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5.
• Donate by phone. Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.