‘Raising awareness’ is great, but ultimately you feed hungry people with food.
Setting aside all the pessimism, politics, and posturing around how to fix Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Monday night a small group of everyday people experienced the answer to “what can we do?”
It is The Middle. Eighteen strangers of all ages — now bonded like family — gathered to roll up their sleeves in the name of helping those in poverty.
For the better part of a decade, a team of extremely driven, hardworking, and incredibly committed community members have worked toward a single goal: end poverty.
Staunchly and unapologetically dedicated to helping those living in poverty NOW.
Their action is simple: one free healthy fresh meal at a time.
With citizens going hungry every day, living with less than nothing, shunned by large swaths of society surrounding them — those of us with more than enough need to step up. To act to help fellow humans lost in Vancouver.
In this space you’ve seen me acknowledge Mark Brand as he tirelessly does what he can to combat poverty. Mark basically lives on a plane to act global while his team at Save On Meats act local, feeding 880 people each day by 11:00am.
One free healthy fresh meal at a time.
They go much farther than just the meal. They hire, train and long-term employ people who otherwise would be turned away from opportunity due to their past. Mark gives them what they need most: possibility.
As part of an ever-growing program called “Plenty Of Plates,” citizens are invited to literally take the helm at Save On Meats and run a restaurant without a guest check at the end of service.
You fundraise ($250/person) for A Better Life Foundation to purchase food for the pre-arranged set menu, gather your team of at least 10 and up to 15. Arrive at 5pm to get the lay of the land, with two hours to prepare the room, prep and cook – then serve like you own the place.
Upwards of 100 patrons are invited through SROs and shelters in the area. Doors open at 6:30; service begins at 7:00.
Last year there were 40 Plenty of Plates events, and the hope is to have this happen twice weekly.
We can do this. We need to do this.
Our night was a very rainy Monday. The place filled early and was jammed, with a lineup out the door until 8:30. We packed up every last morsel of food for hungry people in that queue hopeful for something to go.
We can do this. We need to do this.
We were, in restaurant terms, “in the weeds” all night.
The four hours flew by in minutes, our hearts and minds forever impacted by the gratitude and joy of our diners.
It became crystal clear, very quickly, that these folks are not “just a bunch of addicts” and drifters. They are you and me — our sisters and brothers or sons and daughters — whom life threw a massive curveball.
We made eye contact, shared stories, human connection and a great meal with folks who’ve become desensitized to the “haves” often looking away.
It’s on us to find answers. Politics and policy are simply not urgent enough for those needing help. Action, one human at a time, is what will ultimately change the human crisis of the DTES.
People living in poverty in our glorious city deserve our respect, a helping hand, and a chance to find the possibility in their life and future.
The DTES doesn’t need a study or letter writing. Citizens living in this impoverished postal code need meaningful shelter, affordable rentals, healthy meals to have with their medications and a chance to re-enter society which has allowed them to be the forgotten.
If you’d like to experience the eye-opening Plenty Of Plates go to abetterlifefoundation.ca for all of the information. We guarantee that you will understand what this community needs, craves – all within a four-hour window that will change you forever for the better.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.
- Jody wrote about Mark Brand’s extraordinary efforts to help people in need, appropriately enough, on Boxing Day.
- Homelessness and poverty are by no means confined to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Bob Price on the efforts expended by Interior cities.
- Roslyn Kunin on how women can best help other women in the workforce.