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Community Effort for COVID-19

On March 18, 2020 the province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency in
response to the COVID-19 health crisis. As businesses closed and people sheltered in
place, Potluck Cafe Society pivoted from being a social enterprise with catering
services to focus solely on community support. Recognizing the urgent need, we
volunteered our services to the City of Vancouver to facilitate the production and
distribution of tens of thousands of nutritious meals to Single Room Occupancies (SROs)
in the Downtown Eastside.

Recognizing Potluck could only manage a small portion of the increasing and urgent
demand, we partnered with HAVE Café and Goodly Foods to help produce meals.
Potluck established sample meal recipes, which met Canadian Nutritional Guidelines,
and priced the meals at just the hard costs incurred. While this did not cover all of the
costs to Potluck, the goal was to feed as many people as possible in a short period of

To further increase capacity with logistics, we utilized our new location site to act as a
distribution centre. We recruited volunteers from the film industry to staff the site, and
rented vehicles for volunteer drivers to deliver prepared meals daily to residents in 35
SRO buildings throughout the Downtown Eastside. We are grateful to the City of
Vancouver for funding the cost of the prepared meals; the money dispersed went to
the appropriate organizations based on their production of meals.

However, Potluck realized that despite the production of healthy meals to SROs, those
living on the streets had very limited or no access food. Potluck joined forces with fellow
non-profit HAVE Café, as well as South Hall Event Centre catering and Wildebeest
restaurant to produce meals for the homeless. Nearly 50,000 meals were provided by
this partnership of both non-profits and local businesses and was funded entirely by the
fundraising efforts of Potluck and WePress. These meals were distributed through DTES
organizations such as Aboriginal Front Door Society, Carnegie Community Action
Project, Overdose Prevention Society, Health through SPIRIT and Vancouver Women’s
Health Collective.

In addition, at a time when businesses had shut down, and many workers had been laid
off, the labour hours provided as a result of these programs helped economically
support both, our staff and local businesses

The community of the DTES rose to the occasion during the COVID-19 pandemic, and
Potluck is honoured to have played a vital role. Connecting regularly with the City of
Vancouver who provided direction and feedback. Sharing information and exploring
solutions on a community led collaborative network, we were able to adapt swiftly to
any changes that arose.