Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Residents were already living a health emergency when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, the opioid epidemic is not the only thing threatening the city's most vulnerable. But a Vancouver chef who feeds DTES residents every day is leading a talented team that's preparing thousands of meals every day, and making a huge difference in the lives of Vancouverites.
"That's what we're here doing every single day. Trying to feed as many people the best food we can,"* said Ash MacLeod to Narcity.
Macleod heads the A Better Life Foundation, which, in regular times, sends out a thousand free meals every day to Vancouver's disadvantaged. While the city's restaurants shut down around them, they have been ramping up production to help keep people fed.
With a small team of just 20, they're now putting out roughly 1,500 free meals every single day. Not only that, but they're serving larger portions than ever, too.
"Recognizing that there's less food available in the neighbourhood, we've increased the amount of food we're doing per meal," said MacLeod.
Canada has had to adapt to help the disadvantaged during COVID-19, and Macleod has too. Before COVID-19, they served all their meals in communal kitchens.
Now there are new social distancing rules so they're individually packaging each meal and delivering them straight to the community.
"It's a major pivot, but one that's keeping people safe," he said.
They're operating on people's donations and the support of B.C. Housing and Atira Property Management while fundraisers are postponed.
"A lot of folks are being really generous and digging in, which we are so humbled and so appreciative of, especially in these unknown times," he told Narcity.
🆕 Handwashing stations have been deployed in the Downtown Eastside to increase access to hand-washing facilities, m… https://t.co/ZdUNQWSlsa— City of Vancouver (@City of Vancouver)1584488195.0
But why focus on food? Macleod says it goes much deeper than just nutrition.
"We understand food, and we understand the power of convening community over food, and how important food is for human connection," said Macleod.
"It addresses mental health, isolation, and community, and of course, nutrition and stability all in one go."
@johannhari101 @InsiteVan It's such a terrible and tragic situation. The #coronavirus is here and the sidewalks are… https://t.co/H1pWia9xRL— Travis Lupick (@Travis Lupick)1585095417.0
Macleod says that we should be remembering the humanity of our most vulnerable people living in the city. You can donate to the A Better Life Foundation online to help out.
"We've got grandmothers and grandfathers and grandchildren that make up the folks that we serve on a daily basis," he said.
"There's really incredibly lovely humans behind the numbers."
*This article has been updated.