Agata Martin-Ozimek


Bachelor of Science, Food Science & Nutrition, Dietetics Specialization, 2nd year

Course: CSL 100 (Fall 2021) with Instructor Jay Friesen

Who was your community partner and can you describe the project objectives

For CSL 100, I partnered with Multicultural Health Brokers (MCHB) in their Grocery Run Program. This program focuses on providing food hampers to people in need while ensuring the food is ethnically and culturally diverse, and ensures food dignity and food justice. 

My project with the organization was to work on their social media page to promote the Grocery Run in all aspects: to bring on new volunteers, spread awareness about them, help spread the word about their GoFundMe campaign, and have more interaction with their followers. I worked alongside two other students within CSL 100 to manage their social media, creating reels, educational content in the form of posts and stories as well as interacting with their followers to increase engagement. We had free range to interact with the volunteers on-site and see all the behind-the-scenes processes of MCHB. We were allowed and encouraged to interact with the MCHB volunteers and help put together the food hampers which was probably the most rewarding part of the placement. 

What was your biggest takeaway from your CSL placement

I learned a lot about the importance and need for sustainable solutions to food insecurity. Julia Tran, the former head of the Grocery Run, was very thorough and passionate in her explanation of the program. She explained the aim of the Grocery Run and the need for “food justice” and “food dignity”, two terms I had not previously heard before.  Her passion prompted me to look into what she was briefing us on and I have learned so much through her education and passion as well as through my interactions with the volunteers of the program. 

Interacting with the volunteers of MCHB and how easily they made me and my fellow volunteers feel like a member of their close knit community. Most of them had known each other for years, volunteering together week in and week out, swapping stories about their lives, creating friendships amongst one another. The first time we stepped foot into the building to create some content and gather knowledge about the inner-workings of our placement, we were immediately welcomed into their family. They were all so friendly and willing to ingratiate us into their group. We were ordered around and teased in that way you only are around family. That was the most rewarding part of the placement. Feeling like I was part of a community that was giving back. Many of the volunteers shared similar backstories to those MCHB aims to help, some had been previous recipients of the many services offered by MCHB. Seeing them come back and hearing their “why” behind returning just reminded me of what it is to be human, as corny as that sounds. The kindness and support of these volunteers just amazed me. 

How can you apply any newly gained knowledge/skills to your future endeavours (courses/employment/volunteering)?

Learning about how imperfect and unsustainable current food solutions such as food banks are to solving the issue of food insecurity has been beneficial to my current courses which are only just starting to touch on these issues. I am studying to be a dietitian and over the course of my degree, we are taught many things such as chemistry, physiology, biochemistry, different metabolic pathways, but it isn’t until our 2nd year of the program, technically 3rd year of university for traditional applicants, that we touch on these major issues that impact the population we are studying to help. Learning about these issues through my placement in an in-person setting has helped cement in my head concepts and, better yet, care about them enough to want to do something to change it. 

My placement has made me want to work in the community in my future career because I know that as a dietitian I can help advocate for solutions to food insecurity that are sustainable, ensure ethnically and culturally appropriate food are provided, and that the dignity of people are preserved because that is the right of every person: to have safe and healthy food available.

What are some of the ways that COVID-19 has affected your community partner or your placement? 

COVID-19 was actually part of the reason the Grocery Run program came to be. They arose because they saw a gap in the food-services offered by other organizations such as the Food Bank or homeless shelters. They started the Grocery Run intending for it to provide temporary relief during a particularly stressful and uncertain time when many had lost their jobs, but were also having trouble accessing the services they needed. They wanted to ensure these people were not slipping through the cracks and they wanted to do it in a way that maintained their dignity and ensured food justice.  

Grocery Run was not meant to go on for as long as it has been. It started as a temporary relief program to help alleviate and fill in the gaps for those who fall through; however it has since continued on because of the increasing use of the program by the community and the continued need for their service. Despite the pandemic, my fellow classmates and I were welcomed on site to meet all the volunteers and help out on the team. We were allowed to come in person to shoot content and connect with the volunteers in ways we would not have been able to, had it been online.