›› Shonna Bell

As a Family Service Provider, I know that families experience many barriers to ­service. Our team is always looking for ways to reduce barriers and make things easier for our clients. An effective way to reduce ­barriers is to find a place where families are already accessing services and add more services to that place. This minimizes travel for families and consolidates care. Inspired by this idea, Fernwood NRG & the Mustard Seed are collaborating on a new family program called Growing Great Families with the support of the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

Starting in October, Growing Great Families will run weekly at the Mustard Seed Street Church, located at 625 Queens ­Avenue in Victoria. Every month at the Mustard Seed, hundreds of families, who are food insecure, receive groceries from the Mustard Seed Market. Growing Great Families will be offered for these families to attend.

The program will offer lunch and will have a focused topic each week ­including parenting, food and nutrition, money skills, and other information that parents have shown interest in learning about. The goal of Growing Great Families is to meet families where they are at and extend resources and support to all. The partnership between the Mustard Seed Family Center and Fernwood NRG will combine staff knowledge and skills for parents who access this new program.

This idea of meeting the needs of ­families in unique ways is not new to either of our organizations. The Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses has had a ­partnership called the Food By Neighbourhood Pilot with the Mustard Seed Street Church and Food Bank for a few years. Through this program, families are able to pick up a monthly food hamper from their local community centre or ­neighbourhood house, if they aren’t able to make it to the Mustard Seed.

There are still a significant number of families accessing food at the Mustard Seed’s Queen Street location. Diane ­Pearson, the Family Center Coordinator at the Mustard Seed Street Church, shared, “With this program, we can expand our connections to families and work together to support families in our community. We are excited about this partnership because together we can reach more families. Together we can make a difference now and in the future.”

For more info, you can email shonna@­fernwoodnrg.ca.