Written by Planted Volunteer, Angelina Lam
Food security is an issue for people living in poverty. Having adequate foods and a safe place to eat can be difficult. However, a quaint community café at a little corner of West 10th Ave makes dining possible even for vulnerable individuals.
This summer through a UBC course on HIV Prevention & Care, I was given an opportunity to volunteer at the Oasis Community Café. I quickly learned that Oasis is unlike other community kitchens and hot meal programs. Instead of serving foods in an assembly line fashion, Oasis has shifted into a full dining service where guests can enjoy their meals and socialize with their friends without being rushed out the door.
The purpose of Oasis is to bring together individuals and build a stronger community. Although there is a small dining fee of $1, it is flexible for those who cannot afford it. Individuals are welcome to volunteer and in return meal coupons would be given as a honourium. There are currently volunteers and staff who were past participants and were hired to help run the café. Not only does Oasis provide means to food security but also opportunities for individuals to develop working experiences.
Oasis Community Café goes beyond just providing nutritious meals for their guests; they also provide extra food to take away to help with food insecurity when able. The importance of community engagement is also highlighted through their community garden in which herbs and vegetables are grown and picked in season as ingredients for their meals.
Increasing dining experience for guests is important. Dining tables are decorated with colourful tablecloths and flowers are used as centerpieces for the coffee table. Guests are greeted as customers and waited on to eliminate any power imbalance between guests and volunteers. This welcoming environment encourages guests to visit again so continued access to healthy, safe and nutritious foods is possible.
My experience at Oasis increased my understanding of how community services can help increase engagement to health care. Without meeting basic food requirements an individual will have to worry about hunger as well as health care concerns. We need more community services like Oasis to improve food security, decrease barriers to care and to empower individuals with skills through social support and volunteerism.
Angelina is studying to be a dietitian at UBC. She is interested in learning about the complex challenges of hunger and health. In the future, Angelina wishes to work in the community and develop programs and resources that are accessible to everyone.