The South Asian Food Pantry was set up with the aim to provide culturally appropriate foods to the community. This idea stems from a gap in the food bank space where culturally appropriate foods are not available. Often times, people in various walks of life need to use a food bank. While a food bank is a great way to provide food for a family in need, it provides specific kinds of foods. At the same time, there’s a lot of stigma around food insecurity within the South Asian community and anyone seeking help is looked down upon. Food insecurity is automatically linked to the inability to provide for oneself and family for reasons that our community assumes are in our control (addiction issues, mental health etc). There’s a certain kind of image associated with people who use the food bank and lack of understanding around issues that may lead one to use the food bank.

When I came here as a newcomer, I resorted to using the food bank because I couldn’t work enough hours (I was an international student) and needed to provide food, clothing, shelter, diapers etc for my son.

After I got a job, I knew I wanted to give back and pay it forward. So I started donating to the food bank and organizing food drives. But, I wanted to do more. I wanted to fill the gaps I saw.

Our grant is a youth grant and my son and I decided to do this together.

When we applied for the grant, we wanted to bridge both these gaps by providing culturally appropriate foods to the community in a way that is detached from any stigma and agnostic of faith.

Unfortunately, due to Omicron, we had to rejig our project very quickly so we decided to provide gift cards to South Asian newcomers (whether individuals or families) who live in New Westminster and are newcomers to Canada (less than 5 years).

The blessing in disguise was that our overhead costs were zero and we ended up using the entire grant money for gift cards – so one $50 gift card for 10 families.

Food is a big connector, it brings people of all kinds together. By providing these gift cards, we hope to build relationships and community. We also hope to do this in a regular way so as to remove the stigma around food insecurity in our community.

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