By Skana Gee
Traditional meal-delivery programs don’t necessarily cut the mustard as the make-up of communities evolves to be more ethnically diverse.
For instance, The Greater Toronto Area’s South Asian immigrant population gew by about 50 per cent between 2000 and 2006. And that trend is on full display in Mississauga, where 51.6 per cent of residents were foreign-born in 2006.
So the Community Foundation of Mississauga is always on the look-out for programs and services that serve the area’s diverse needs, including the Langar Project at Punjabi Community Health Services, a community kitchen program aimed at feeding frail seniors in the South Asian community.
The project — “langar” means communal kitchen – received a $30,000 grant from the community foundation to help it begin operations this month. It will engage healthy seniors to procure, prepare and distribute culturally appropriate food to those who cannot cook for themselves. With an aim to providing two meals daily, even on weekends and holidays, it’s a perfect fit for Mississauga, which has a higher proportion of foreign-born residents than other Canadian centres.
“It takes the concept of a communal kitchen into the community. Not only does it provide food, but it also gives seniors a feeling of connectedness and safety,” says Eileen MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Mississauga.
The grant is a good illustration of the knowledge that can be gleaned from Vital Signs – and the community impact that can result.
In 2011, the anonymous donor behind the Pendle Fund decided to fund the first-ever Mississauga’s Vital Signs report and, before the year was out, had also provided $365,000 to address the needs identified in that document.
“They saw the value of community knowledge and the beauty of using that knowledge to inform philanthropy,” says CFM’s Executive Director Eileen MacKenzie. “All of these projects, including the Langar Project, demonstrate a real ability to connect to the community needs identified in Vital Signs 2011.”
In a recent Globe and Mail story about the Langar Project, a caseworker with Punjabi Community Health Services said it makes sense to provide culturally appropriate meals to needy seniors.
“Most of my clients would prefer eating South Asian food because it’s been a part of their diet their whole lives,” said Nirpal Bhangoo. “You can’t really expect them to change at their age.”
Skana Gee is Communications Coordinator with Community Foundations of Canada