Food as a way to integrate newcomers
A big change that newcomers often face is at the grocery store. When you aren’t familiar with all the products, finding your way around can be a headache. Even unfamiliar flavours can be a shock, since the same products—meat, fruits and vegetables, cereals, nuts—don’t always taste the same in every country.
Newcomers who lack financial resources may also have to grocery shop at the local food bank, whose baskets don’t usually contain foods that let people cook familiar dishes.
Agnès Mbome, Executive Director of the agency Racine Croisée Solidarité Sawa, knows something about this challenge as she herself struggled to adapt to the food after immigrating to Canada. Hailing from Cameroon, she was inspired by her own experience to launch the Food Integration Baskets, a food bank that adapts and personalizes baskets to people’s cultures and their way of cooking and eating.
“Since I myself had to integrate into Quebec society, I can be humble and understanding while listening to the experiences of other immigrants. This let me collect data and understand how important it is for them to have more personalized services so that they can integrate better into their new society. This prompted me to take action to create Racine Croisée and the Food Integration Baskets.”
A sustainable initiative
By tailoring baskets to clients and ensuring that families want to eat all the items they get, the project prevents wasted food. Nothing gets thrown out, as everything given to the families is cooked and consumed. Each week the project assists 300 families—a number that includes mostly newcomers but also some non-immigrant families in a situation of poverty—as well as post-secondary students. Sold for $7 each, the baskets include a week’s worth of meals for a family with 2 to 3 children.
When they find their bearings and can eat well, newcomers feel more welcome.
Food is key to building a new home. When they find their bearings and can eat well, newcomers feel more welcome and able to move on to the next stage in their migration journeys, such as learning the language and finding a job. More broadly, Racine Croisée also offers services based on needs to help people successfully settle in a new country: administrative procedures, housing searches, job searches, legal support, French courses, translation, sponsorships, and more.
Racine Croisée Solidarité Sawa received the 2023 Solidaires Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Food Integration Baskets project.
This award recognizes the determined efforts of an agency or collective initiative to implement equity, diversity and inclusion strategies and approaches within its organization and in its interactions with its community.