St. Dunstan's Anglican Church in Aldergrove is using a $10,000 grant to teach people how to better feed themselves.
The church didn't have to look far for the inspiration on how to use a $10,000 grant from Vancity Credit Union. Outside the church is its community garden where people are learning to garden by gardening as part of its Garden to Table program.
The next logical extension was teaching about nutrition and food security, which is where the grant will go.
Last year the church became the site of weekly meals as part Garden to Table. They are basically sit-down family dinners where anyone who walks through the door is family that evening.
"From the beginning our goal was to create a community where everyone could share what they have and take what they need," said Christina Ray, whose been overseeing the program.
Volunteers cook the meals based on available ingredients. For the Feb. 9 gathering, a local farmer came bearing apples and ingredients that were turned into apple crisp. There's a donation basket for anyone who wants to help cover the cost of ingredients, and others contribute by washing dishes, setting up and taking down tables, or packaging up leftovers for people to take home.
The weekly dinners run 4:30-7:30 p.m. each Thursday, part of St. Dunstan's various efforts each year to reach out to the community. Numbers have continued to grow since the meals started last year with about 50 people attending on Feb. 9.
"It's expanded to include people from all backgrounds," Ray said.
At 88, Audrey McAuley was one of the most senior people attending, unsure at first what to expect. She's been going now for a couple months and looks forward to the weekly dinners.
"Once I'd been a couple of times, I thought, 'I can do that,'" she said. "This is so nice and you meet so many interesting people."
The menu on Feb. 9: chili con carne, soup, a salad with more types of vegetables than a farmers' market, tortilla chips and fresh fixings, and apple crisp. The next time, it will change, depending on what volunteer cooks arrange.
Everyone was dishing up when a group of young men came in from the darkness.
Tyson Jackson and Tonny Bui are no strangers to the gathering. They slide in with their plates of food to sit at tables beside seniors, families, and a few single men.
They've been to a few of these meals.
"It's good," Jackson said.
After dinner, a young father moves from table to table, folding tablecloths while his kids take handfuls of cutlery to the dishwasher. Jackson and Bui start stacking the folding tables against the wall, as everyone helps clean up and put away.
Garden-to-Table weekly gatherings offer food support, social support, and skills support, while enhancing food security and raising environmental awareness.
The grant will be used for the gardening program and a community kitchen series for low-income adults and recent immigrants so they can learn how to use healthy ingredients versus having to resort to buying processed foods. Despite the fact that people eat every day, many adults were never educated in the basics of food, nutrition and cooking from scratch.
"Sometimes people with the least money end up spending the most," noted Rev. Paul Guiton.
Garden-to-Table is supported by local merchants and organizations, including the Aldergrove Rotary Club, the Organic Farm Connection, Lotusland Vineyards, Milsean's Shop, Langley Environmental Partners (LEPS), Langley Costco, and the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster.
For more information about the community garden, weekly meals or the community kitchen, contact St. Dunstan's at 604-856-5393. The church is at 3025 264th St.
The money for St. Dunstan's is a Community Project grant. Vancity provides up to $10,000 for various initiatives under its community grant program.
The next round of grants are coming up and people can submit applications starting May 15.
"We would love to get some more applications from Aldergrove and Langley," said Louise Pochailo, Vancity's senior co-ordinator of community engagement.
Community project grants focus on social justice, economic self-reliance, or environmental sustainability.
Vancity also offers Capacity Building grants of up to $10,000, EnviroFund grants of up to $25,000, and Staff Community Building grants to support the volunteer efforts of credit union employees. In addition, it offers financial awards to students.