Gordon Neighbourhood House’s Community Lunch Program – 2021 Project Impact Healthy Aging Profile
Gordon Neighbourhood House is located in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood, perhaps the most densely populated neighbourhood in the city and home to a growing population of seniors, many of who live alone. As a community hub in the West End, Gordon Neighbourhood House has several programs for all members of the community, including family, children, and seniors.
One such program is the Community Lunch Program, which was designed to not only feed healthy food to the community but also to educate them on healthy eating habits. Pre-COVID, the program would run four times a week and anywhere from 30 to 40 community members would attend. (During COVID in May 2020, the program pivoted to a meal delivery service for 50 seniors living in the West End. To date, the program has delivered over 10,000 frozen meals).
Although the Community Lunch Program is inclusive to all, most of the program’s attendees are seniors and older adults, many of whom live alone. Noticing this and also wanting to hone into the program’s impact in its West End community, a team from Gordon Neighbourhood House participated in the 2021 cohort of Project Impact Healthy Aging.
Project Impact Healthy Aging is a development evaluation course that helps organizations in the Community-Based Seniors’ Services (CBSS) sector to prove and improve the impact of their programming. Through funding from the Province of B.C. and in partnership with Dialogues in Action and Healthy Aging, Project Impact provides graduate-level training on how to design effective exemplars, develop evaluation strategies to collect data to determine findings, communicate impact, and produce data-informed program experiments and innovations. At each step, teams are guided and given feedback to produce credible findings from the data of the evaluation process.
For Gordon Neighbourhood House, the typical way to assess programming was from standard surveys which would centre questions on how the organization was doing.
“As we went through the process, from setting up the interview questions, what was helpful was putting the focus on the participants, said Jenn Mason, Community Programmer (Senior Programs) at Gordon Neighbourhood House and Project Impact participant. We shifted the focus away from us as an organization to the seniors themselves.”
Participating in Project Impact also provided Gordon Neighbourhood House with an opportunity to look deeper into the program’s efficacy beyond the Community Lunch Program’s goal of nutrition awareness and education. As part of the learning and evaluation process, Gordon Neighbourhood House was able to identify four key impacts: seniors lead healthy active lives; seniors enjoy nutritiously, high-quality food (lunch programs, cooking classes, meal delivery program); seniors connected to the community; seniors are leaders in their community.
“There is a real connection in the West End with the Gordon Neighbourhood House. Attending the lunches was less about eating for community members but more so the social connections they made. Through the program, we also discovered that the Community Lunch Program also served as a gateway to further participation by seniors and older adults. Many of our older volunteers were introduced to us via the program and are now very much engaged and are making a difference as volunteers.”
Gordon Neighbourhood House hopes to continue the groundwork that was laid from Project Impact as the evaluation process helped the organization obtain a wider perspective of the various impacts of the Community Lunch Program.
“We will make some changes in terms of the community lunches. We will find ways to educate and communicate the nutritional benefits and look for ways to further educate seniors on healthy eating habits. For instance, we will continue the cooking class, as we found that it inspired seniors to eat less meat. We will also look for ways to recognize senior volunteers for their leadership and contribution to the community. Many of them are ‘reluctant leaders’ and don’t realize their value and impact. We want to ensure we celebrate their contributions.”
Jenn presented the findings on Gordon Neighbourhood House’s behalf at the Project Impact Healthy Aging Virtual Showcase on June 10, 2021, via Zoom.
Click here to watch the showcase in its entirety.
Project Impact Healthy Aging is offered by Dr. Steve Patty of Dialogues in Action.