Every Friday, Adrien* is first in line for our weekly drop-in centre food bank.
The 18-year-old arrived at our doors a year ago with no other options. In the months since arriving at Covenant House, he has found work with the support of drop-in centre staff and is now living in an apartment in the community.
But with continued inflation and the dramatically rising costs of living, his income quickly disappears after paying rent and other bills, leaving little left for groceries.
“When I came here, I thought ‘How am I going to buy food?’ because everything is super expensive. But when I found this food bank, I was so happy…this food bank has been really helpful.”
Thanks to the generous support of donors, on a recent visit, he received frozen chicken, some instant noodles, a loaf of bread and a carton of 2% milk. The bag would help get him through the week, he said, and also from going hungry.
Adrien is one of upwards of 100 youth who attend the drop-in centre’s weekly food bank – an effort made possible in partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank but also by donors who help ensure the cupboards are stocked for youth who need the extra support to eat nutritious meals on a limited budget.
The lines for the food bank have stretched longer in recent months, drop-in staff say – on a recent Friday by 12:30 p.m. the list was already nearly a page long.
As the cost of food increases and the homelessness crisis continues, it is more important than ever that young people have access to fresh, nutritious food. Research shows that youth experiencing homelessness – whose brains and bodies are still developing - are at high risk of malnutrition. In one Canadian survey study, most of the youth interviewed were failing to meet their basic requirements for vitamins and minerals, and most were not getting enough food to fuel their bodies.
Our drop-in centre is unique in that it offers fresh hot meals provided by our food service department. “Pans of curry, fried fish and rice and peas, pasta – a plate of this might be the youth’s only food source that day”, says interim drop-in centre supervisor Kendra Sandy.
“The counter of food placed out daily at opening and then the dinner platters arriving around 3pm is a gathering place in the drop-in centre,” Kendra says. “While providing the nourishment youth experiencing homelessness need for their energy, the meals are also an opportunity for connection.”
On average, 62 youth eat a meal in the drop-in centre daily – some even taking an extra meal to go.
The need continues to increase.
“It’s heartbreaking because we’re on the frontlines of homelessness, so we’re seeing how it affects all areas of someone’s life,” Kendra says. “But I think the fact that we have a place here where we can provide young people with a meal – I think that’s a point of care. Food is a way of saying welcome, you belong here.”