Family Services earns national honours for New West-based program

Spotlight on: Family Services of Greater Vancouver

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Family Services of Greater Vancouver has won a national literacy award for some of its good works in the community.

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ABC Life Literacy Canada recently announced the top and honourable mention winners of the 2019 Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award, which recognizes organizations that develop and implement innovative adult literacy and essential skills programs in communities across Canada. Family Services of Greater Vancouver received the top award, along with $20,000, which it can put towards future programming.

Mack Rogers, ABC’s executive director, said this year’s winners impressed ABC with their innovative and creative programming, but also with the demonstrated impact they’ve had in their communities.

“This award is a huge honour for Caring Neighbours and a testament to the strength of the community in New West. It was entirely unexpected and we’re thrilled,” Bre Hamilton, manager of marketing and communications, said in an email to the Record. “This award will fund our community kitchens programs, including new ones we’ve always wanted to have for seniors, for years to come.”

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Family Services of Greater Vancouver’s took top honours for its Caring Neighbours program, a community kitchen program that combines health, food and financial literacies, and creates important social connections among vulnerable and socially isolated families, children and seniors.

“Participants come for the food and leave with a breadth of practical skills, including basic cooking skills, meal planning, household budgeting, social skills and an understanding of how to access the community services and resources available to them,” said a press release. “This innovative program takes a basic human need – food – and creates a fun and accessible entry point into literacy and skills development to engage vulnerable and isolated families and individuals.”

According to the press release, Caring Neighbours has reached more than 1,500 individuals and has demonstrated marked success in building participants’ skills and knowledge, increasing healthy social connections, confidence and trust.

What’s the connection between community kitchens and literacy?

Family Services has been running community kitchen programs for about 20 years, but they’ve really gained popularity in the past few years.

Pat Steiner, associate director of Caring Neighbours, said about 200 people from New Westminster participate in programs each year.

Steiner said community kitchens contribute to literacy in a number of ways: financial literacy (budgeting, shopping, credit); nutritional literacy (healthy eating, nutrition tours, learning about new foods); numeracy (measuring, counting); functions (reading recipes, following directions); and children (school readiness and family connection). In addition, she said community kitchens provide social connections, which isn’t about literacy – but it  is super important.

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