As the world closed its doors in late March, the staff at The Alex Community Food Centre had to look inward and ask ourselves “What does a community resource like the CFC look like without the bustling energy of our weekly meals, the laughter of the kids in our cooking classes, and the welcoming smiles of our volunteers greeting people at the doors? How do we deliver the comforts and kindness that are the values of our programs during a time of physical distancing?”
Like everyone, we adapted. In the earliest weeks of the crisis, we cast our sights across the broader Alex community. First, we focused on our most highly vulnerable community members, those with complex medical, mental health and addiction supports. Our kitchen staff began preparing and delivering over 4,500 hot meals to ensure they stayed comfortably in their homes.
At the same time, we collaborated with other members of The Alex team, including social workers, resource specialists, and justice navigators, to create a Social Dispatch hub, providing a safe way for people to connect with staff, receive resources, get connected to basic needs. Several rooms at our Community Health Centre were filled with phone banks, and we spread the word that The Alex was open for business as (un)usual.
As we move away from emergency response and into the longer-term, the CFC kitchen has pivoted yet again to ensure we are prepared to respond to increased requests for support. With the help from our funders and supporters, we are now able to offer financial supports for food, shopping services, grocery kits, and meal kits.
Now our kitchen is busy making delicious, healthy frozen individual meals, ready to be simply re-heated, and safely delivered to those who are unable to prepare food at home. Meal hampers are delivered to people able to cook independently with some support, and grocery cards are given to community members who can go to shopping and cook what works best for their families.
As the weather warms, we are also looking towards ways we can use our large outdoor garden and gathering space to safely bring people together, recapturing the spirit of community. Our first affordable produce market kicked off in early May, as we are excited to continue to grow these activities, balancing the priority of physical safety, with the importance of neighbourhood connection.
Our seedlings are ready to be planted in our garden, and as we look to the future, all we know is that no matter the circumstances, the veggies in our garden will continue to grow, we will continue to cook, and everyone will share in the spirit of The Alex Community Food Centre.