With the arrival of the holiday season, the demand for essential services such as nutritious meals and secure housing escalates among Greater Victoria's marginalized, homeless, and food-insecure populations.
The Victoria Cool Aid Society emphasizes the importance of community support in addressing these challenges. By donating, individuals can play a crucial role in ensuring the provision of these critical services, helping to alleviate the struggles faced by those impacted by homelessness and poverty in the region.
"The food we serve to our clients goes beyond mere sustenance,” Paul Stewart, food services manager at Cool Aid, says. “It fosters a sense of community, belonging, and dignity.”
Supporting vulnerable communities
Cool Aid is a local non-profit that stands out for its holistic approach to assisting marginalized adults. Focusing on barrier-free housing, healthcare, and food security, the organization is much more than a place to live - it’s a lifeline.
Operating two commercial kitchens – one at Rock Bay Landing and another at Mount Edwards Court – Cool Aid serves about 950 meals daily. In 2022 alone, nearly 300,000 meals were provided to Cool Aid residents. Remarkably, 80,000 pounds of rescued food, valued at $250,000, was also used, reflecting Cool Aid’s commitment to sustainability and resourcefulness.
The society's innovative approach includes partnering with local farms and food rescue initiatives. These relationships not only improve the quality of meals served, but they also support the local economy and reduce environmental impact.
Cool Aid's food service program is also pivotal in building trust and relationships with the people supported by the organization.
"Food brings people together, and good nutrition changes lives. For our clients, especially around the holidays, knowing there's someone who cares is vital and makes a world of difference,” Stewart says.
Social support meets community outreach
Another unique aspect of Cool Aid’s approach is its emphasis on food-related social enterprise. Future enterprise programs will provide job skills and confidence to tenants, as well as a food services training program and a social enterprise café.
Cool Aid’s Community Kitchen program at its Downtown Community Centre is another cornerstone, offering classes on food purchasing, preparation, nutrition, and storage, empowering clients with essential life skills.
Community involvement is a cornerstone of Cool Aid’s ability to offer help.
"Every little bit counts. Sponsoring a meal or donating toward grocery gift cards makes a huge difference to the people we serve, especially with rising food costs,” Stewart says.
In 2022, Cool Aid distributed over 5,000 grocery gift cards, providing a dignified way for clients to shop for their needs. This initiative is particularly poignant, considering a recent Statistics Canada's report that seven million Canadians, including two million children, were food insecure in 2022.
"Food insecurity doesn't just affect those below the poverty line. It's a growing concern across Canada," Stewart says.
The society’s food outreach also extends to special events like Indigenous Peoples Day and Thanksgiving, when it serves community meals. Businesses and community groups can sponsor these meals, creating a sense of inclusion and celebration for those who participate.
The impact of Cool Aid’s work is profound. Not only does it address immediate needs like hunger, but it also provides a foundation for long-term wellness and community integration.
To learn more about Cool Aid Society and how you can help, visit coolaid.org.