Food is at the heart of every community. And this is certainly true at The Girls & Boys Brigade, where food programs like the weekly Youth Dinner Nights help youth to connect and create a sense of family. 

But when COVID-19 lockdowns were introduced in March 2020, The Girls & Boys Brigade was forced to temporarily close our doors. Bill, our Youth Coordinator had to think outside the box to recreate the youth dinners virtually.

“Normally the youth and I would cook and enjoy a healthy meal together, spending time with friends, but how was I going to create this same experience online?” Bill said.

Bill carefully chose a tasty recipe and then went shopping for the ingredients to make recipe packs for each youth who wanted to participate.

Bill created a dedicated social media group and then uploaded a video of himself each week cooking the tasty dinner. He then individually delivered each recipe pack for the youth to cook and follow along with the video instructions.

Every Wednesday night, Bill and the youth joined a Zoom call to share their meal.

“It was a great way to keep everyone connected and we would always share riddles over dinner. There was always a healthy dose of competitive spirit going around the zoom dinner table,” Bill said.

The goal of the Dinner program is to teach the youth life skills in a fun and engaging way. Youth are encouraged to help with food preparation and teach others to cook their favourite family recipes. At the dinner table, youth and staff often discuss important topics, such as topical issues in the news, challenges youth might be facing or tips for success at school, work or in relationships. 

Tanya, who normally attends the dinners said, “video calling with friends every day was fun and I enjoyed the challenges Bill set for us.”

For Tanya, the COVID-19 lockdown period was quite an eye-opening but fun experience. 

“We found being at home boosted productivity and we got to have more family time together.” Tanya said, “Quarantine sort of put us more in control of our day and lessened the stress of school and work.”

Food is also central to The Girls & Boys Brigade’s Family Support Program which provides support for families of the children and youth who are enrolled at The Brigade. For these families, panic buying at the beginning of the pandemic created significant food insecurity. During the COVID-19 lockdown, The Girls & Boys Brigade delivered weekly groceries and 255 hot dinners to families in the community. 

Thanks to supporters like you, The Girls & Boys Brigade was able to adapt to COVID-19 and continue to support youth and families in need.