Seven percent of Surrey residents, or approximately 35,000 people, report that they sometimes or often do not have enough food to eat and nearly 80% of Surrey residents are not getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Umoja’s Seeds of Change Food Box Program is a collaborative approach to supporting newcomers with fresh, healthy produce and culturally appropriate grocery items.
Umoja works to alleviate food insecurity and diet challenges immigrants face in Canada. The Consideration of cultural impacts is often overlooked as a factor in health and wellbeing.
Lack of food familiarity can cause hunger, health and safe food issues to go unnoticed. Food security initiatives for newcomers would indeed benefit from building on newcomer strengths, including traditional dietary practices, first language resources and familiarity with established organizations such as Umoja.
“Fifty percent of participant households experienced food insecurity, while 41% of children were food insecure. high level of food insecurity contributes to poor diet quality and the rise in overweight and other chronic health conditions and therefore to the loss of healthy immigrant status.” Canadian Centre for Health Information
Thanks to our eight year partnership with a local non-profit A Rocha, our collaborative work has allowed us to support Umoja families in learning about foods in Canada, connecting families to gardening, and providing organic vegetable bins every year. This impactful partnership ensures Umoja’s clients are provided fresh, colorful, organic produce. The generosity of our community’s donations and constant support allows us to supply our families with healthy vegetables like beets, cilantro, scallions, zucchini, basil and leafy greens.
Our weekly classes often help with information, skills training and food access for families.
When providing a variety of culturally sensitive programs we believe it is important to provide learning opportunities for newcomer families to discover what at first may be unfamiliar foods, to new learnings with new foods to try and use at home. Food changes are a big part of integrating successfully into any new social environment.
Our staff and volunteers are committed to seeing newcomers succeed and achieve their potential. We all share a passion at Umoja to stand beside newcomer families during their settlement journey and to see families happy, healthy and thriving.
Your support will help us to achieve this mission. Thank you!
If you are already involved with Umoja or are thinking about engaging with the cause, you may want to know who are the people who make everything happen. Look no further! Here you will find some of these extraordinary individuals on our series ‘Know the Team!’
To get started, let’s meet Jamie Kopp, the Programs Manager at Umoja Operation Compassion Society of BC.
She has been working with Umoja consecutively since 2011. However, collectively it’s been about 10 years that she has been involved with Umoja.
Jamie, tell us more about these 10 years.
Originally, I got involved with Umoja during a university practicum. I spent a few months working in the kids program and continued to volunteer on Saturdays after my practicum completed for about a year. Shortly after that, I was offered a position with Umoja supporting with administration which I did for about 6 months. Then I did some traveling and was away from Umoja for a year and a half. After that, I was asked to return and run the kids program! I did and a few years later became programs manager.
And what does a Programs Manager do? She said:
Working for a smaller non-profit agency I pretty much do a little bit of everything! My work consists of supporting staff in their work and overseeing program operations, implementing policy, human resources, fund development such as proposal writing and fundraising, budgeting, partnership development, and the list goes on! I’ll also pretty good at troubleshooting so I’ve become the go-to person for computer/electronics/space issues that need fixing.
When we asked Jamie, what she liked the most about her job, she told us that she gets to be involved with the amazing work that Umoja does for newcomers day to day. As well as supporting in building new vision and opportunity for Umoja to continue growing and helping more families coming to Canada. She’s just an awesome good-doer, isn’t she?
And finally, does Jamie think Umoja’s mission is important for the community? Absolutely! She replied:
Umoja’s mission ‘to empower immigrants and refugees to successfully integrate into an inclusive Canadian society’ is definitely important for the community! It is important to recognize that everyone comes with strengths, talents, and abilities to contribute to the community and Canadian society. Through programs and services that directly support and empower children, youth and adults. Umoja creates an opportunity for newcomers to learn, grow and thrive as community members. There can be many challenges that newcomers face during their integration process. However, the services that Umoja provides are key in guiding newcomers through complex systems and societal expectations to move forward and contribute as thriving, engaged members of the community which means we all benefit!
Nice to meet you, Jamie!
Do you have any other questions for her? Ask here in the comments.
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