News / Vancouver

New online map aims to help vulnerable youth find low-cost meals

The Vancouver-area map focuses on safe, youth-friendly services

(Left to right) Kathy Romses,a dietician with Vancouver Coastal Health, Devon Green founder of Spoonsup.ca, and Marc Schutzbak, director of Fresh Roots, pose for a picture at the Fresh Roots community garden at Vancouver Technical Secondary School. Uploaded by: Li, Wanyee

Submitted / Vancouver Coastal Health

(Left to right) Kathy Romses,a dietician with Vancouver Coastal Health, Devon Green founder of Spoonsup.ca, and Marc Schutzbak, director of Fresh Roots, pose for a picture at the Fresh Roots community garden at Vancouver Technical Secondary School. Uploaded by: Li, Wanyee

A Metro Vancouver resident who used to be in foster care is creating an online resource to help vulnerable youth find hot meals.

Devon Green, 27, received $4,800 from the Vancouver Foundation and is working to create an online map geared toward youth with locations in the Tri-Cities, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, and Vancouver. 

He drew from his experience of struggling to afford a hot meal everyday after he aged out of care.

“I had no one to help me. I was very proud and didn’t want to tell anyone my situation,” he said.

Spoonsup.ca features three locations so far for low cost or free meals so far and Green says he will add several locations in the Tri-Cities in the near future. Green personally visits each location to ensure it is youth-friendly and safe before adding it to the map.

Green, who works at Aunt Leah’s, an organization that helps children and mothers connected to the foster care system, is also taking inspiration from Vancouver Coastal Health’s existing food map.

That map features more than 1,000 data points aimed at helping seniors and cultural groups access low-cost groceries, community gardens, and ready-to-eat meals.

“It’s a living map that is constantly updated and we want it to be seen as a community map that the community is engaging in,” said Kathy Romses, public health dietician at Vancouver Coastal Health.

The health authority published the Vancouver Food Assets Map online about nine months ago and has since continued adding resources with the help of students from UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Students are currently focusing on adding dollar-store locations to the map because that’s where people without access to a fridge can scrounge up an affordable meal, said Romses, who also teaches at UBC.

“Those who are really food insecure may not have fridges. Often, dollar stores offer foods that they can actually serve themselves and create a meal out of, like crackers and tuna or crackers and peanut butter.”

The map also helps people find meals for specific groups like Japanese seniors, Indigenous women, or those with disabilities.

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