Food insecurity & quality and social media campaign “Mithaas”
targeting the South Asian community 

With diabetes prevalence far higher in areas of socio economic deprivation, CCD Vancouver has brought together over 30 leaders from non-profits, the government, healthcare and businesses to initiate a conversation on the affordability and accessibility of nutritious and healthy food. From this dialogue, an initiative was created to improve the food given out at Vancouver’s food banks. Innovative partnerships have since been created that mean that food banks can become hubs of healthier eating; with initiatives such as healthy cooking demonstrations with foods from the food bank, and access to on-site health counselling. These efforts will be instrumental to helping bend the curve in the rise in diabetes, as well as going some way of addressing food and health inequalities in urban environments.  

Local Partners: Fraser Health, Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Food Banks BC, Tamarak Institute, Novo Nordisk, Vancouver Coastal Health, Diabetes Canada, Dunya Media, University of Toronto



Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the healthiest cities in the world. In some affluent neighbourhoods the diabetes prevalence is half the global average and well below Canada’s national average of 9%. However, there are pockets of considerable contrast, and relative poverty. In neighbourhoods located in the Downtown Eastside and the South, the prevalence of diabetes is as high as 11%. In addition, the diversity of Greater Vancouver’s population adds a layer of complexity to efforts to combat the disease, with people of Chinese, South Asian and indigenous ethnicity – some of Vancouver’s most populous ethnic groups – having a disproportionate level of risk compared to people of European ethnicity, even with the same BMI.


What the city did

Vancouver was the pilot city for the CCD-developed Urban Diabetes Risk Assessment tool. The mixed-methods instrument was designed to identify distinct participant sub-groups that share specific attitudes and commonalities with regards to health, lifestyle, wellbeing and living with diabetes. This approach allows for bespoke city insights to develop a targeted intervention program. The research affirmed the link between social inequality and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. It can be difficult to access healthy food – and cultural traditions often mean that food, especially the consumption of high calorie foods, can play a central role in the creation or maintenance of social bonds in various communities. 



Recognising that its low-income populations were more/ most at risk of diabetes, Vancouver set its intentions to improve access to healthy food choices for people using food banks. Bringing together over 30 leaders from non-profits, the government, healthcare and businesses including food providers, CCD initiated a conversation on the issue of the availability and affordability of healthy food. From this initial dialogue, a self-sustaining partnership was created between the local health authority and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank to better connect public healthcare providers with the staff of, and the people that use food banks. 

On the realisation that certain ethnicities were more prone to diabetes, Public Health dieticians also collaborated with community leaders and worked with chefs to modify typical banquet dishes to healthier and more nutritional versions and a strategic social media campaign targeted to the South Asian community was launched in March 2019 under the name Mithaaslife. 



There is now on-site health counselling at food banks, and the development of demonstration events that showcase healthy recipes with food bank items to improve nutrition literacy for populations. In addition, the collaboration with local communities led to a culturally relevant method of sharing diabetes education and information to most at-risk portions of Vancouver’s citizens. 


What’s next

There will continue to be a strong collaboration with and among local city stakeholder to ensure continued commitment to create change.