(Re)connecting to Make London a TVIC Community: A CRHESI Networking Event

In Fall 2017, CRHESI hosted an event to bring people together to discuss making London a “Trauma- and Violence-Informed Care (TVIC) Community.” The idea was to spark interest in equity-promoting, trauma- and violence-informed approaches to service across organizations and sectors in London and area. Since then, many have taken up the challenge, and incredible work has been done. In partnership with the London InterCommunity Health Centre, we’re reconvening the group of TVIC implementors and champions – and inviting the broader community – to talk about their work, including the successes and challenges they’ve experienced and the adaptations they’ve made to adjust to a global pandemic. Come hear about this completed and ongoing work, and share your thoughts for our next steps. We’ll also provide a pre-order link to our new book “Implementing Trauma- and Violence-Informed Care: A Handbook” which documents much of this work, providing tools and guidance to those starting on their TVIC journey. Register soon because space is limited. 

Park at the Factory entrance (closest to Kellogg Lane and Florence Street) head up the large staircase and into the Factory. Make your way to the elevator, located by Mystery Escape Rooms (MER) and head down to the ground floor. The set of doors straight ahead off the elevator is the room (Corporate Meeting Room).

Please contact CRHESI coordinators (crhesi@uwo.ca) if you have questions or need more inforamtion.

We look forward to a great discussion!

CRHESI Launches New Affiliate Role

CRHESI is excited to announce the launch of the CRHESI Affiliate role! This role is for people who want to more actively support CRHESI’s mission through academic and/or community research and knowledge mobilization activities. People with active involvement in topics aligned with CRHESI’s theme areas, and conducted following CRHESI principles may self-nominate or be nominated. There are three Affiliate categories: Community, Academic and Trainee. 

CRHESI’s goal is to develop an active network of affiliates with expertise and commitment to facilitate research and KMb connections and knowledge sharing to advance health equity and social inclusion activities in London and area. 

We are proud to name Dr. Helene Berman, Distinguished University Professor Emerita in the Faculty of Health Sciences' Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, Western University as the first CRHESI Affiliate in the academic category. 

Helene was a leading force in the establishment of CRHESI and is the founding Academic Director. We are grateful for Helene’s ongoing contributions and expertise in community-based research focused on the subtle and explicit forms of violence experienced by women and children, social and structural inequalities, and health. 

If you would like to learn more about the terms of the Affiliate role, benefits and accountabilities or start the nomination process, the CRHESI website has more detail. 

Postdoctoral Fellow Position (1-year term) 

A Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) position is currently available for a one-year period (with the possibility of extension) in the Social Justice in Mental Health Research Lab in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University under the supervision of Dr. Carrie Anne Marshall. Candidates holding a PhD. in a social or health sciences discipline are invited to apply. Note that this position is a full-time posting. This position will be situated in Kingston, Ontario, with the potential for occasional travel to London, Ontario. 

This fellowship will offer an opportunity to build upon one’s research skills in the context of a pilot study aimed at evaluating a novel intervention called the “Peer to Community (P2C) Model”, an intervention designed to support community integration following homelessness through meaningful activity and relationship building facilitated by peer support specialists, occupational therapy and social work. This research involves: 

  • Conducting mixed interviews every three months with persons with lived experiences of homelessness over the course of the one-year pilot
  • Maintaining and updating the ethics applications for the study
  • Participating in the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data every three months across the one-year pilot
  • Leading one or more manuscripts based on the findings of the pilot study
  • Participating in the refinement of the P2C model based on the pilot findings
  • Supporting local organizations to obtain funding for implementing the P2C model beyond the one-year pilot study
  • Participating in the development of grant applications to fund larger scale implementation science research aimed at evaluating the P2C model 
  • Supervising master’s and PhD-level research assistants involved in this study 

Applicants must demonstrate some or all the following competencies: 

  • Knowledge of mental illness and substance use disorders 
  • Demonstrated experience in interacting with individuals with experiences of homelessness and housing precarity 
  • Experience with qualitative research and the conduct and analysis of qualitative interviews 
  • Use of qualitative data management (Dedoose or NVivo) and survey software (Qualtrics) 
  • Knowledge of SPSS, and the conduct of descriptive statistics within this program 
  • Knowledge of advanced statistics for measuring longitudinal outcomes (i.e. regression, mixed effects modelling) 
  • Grant writing experience 
  • Scholars who have backgrounds in epidemiology, statistics, or who are are social workers, occupational therapists, and/or who have lived experience of homelessness are specifically encouraged to apply 

This position will provide the following opportunities: 

  • Expanding the candidate’s publication record 
  • Development of expertise in implementation science research 
  • Building upon existing research networks 
  • Deepening one’s knowledge of poverty and homelessness, and how these intersect with mental health and substance use 
  • Developing an independent program of research related to the objectives of the pilot study 
  • Knowledge dissemination and mobilization opportunities 

This position will begin on June 1, 2023, and end on May 30, 2024 with the possibility of extension. Interested applicants should forward a copy of their research CV and a cover letter describing their competencies related to this position by 5pm on April 1, 2023 to carrie.marshall@uwo.ca. The successful candidate will be provided with $50,000/annum in funding with the expectation that they apply for external funding sources throughout their one-year appointment. 

A Conversation about Food Insecurity at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre in London Ontario

In this series, Food Insecurity Affects Us All: A 360 Degree View of the Issues, we took a brief look into the experiences of food insecurity for Western University Students. We now turn our focus to the London community.

In talking to Jennifer Martino and Robert Templeton at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre, I learned that Crouch aims to provide Londoners with equitable access to basic needs such as food and hygiene items, in addition to many other programs developed to increase community inclusion and well-being.

One of the most accessed Crouch programs is the Community Cupboard in which they provide meals and food supplies to neighbours in the Hamilton Road area who may be experiencing food insecurity. While statistics are important to situate a problem, I was eager to learn more about the human side of experiencing food insecurity. Jennifer and Robert shared their perspectives, giving me new insights about the reason why food insecurity persists and the ways in which community members can help.

From: https://www.crouchnrc.org/aboutus

Holding them to a Higher Standard

From: https://www.calgaryfoodbank.com/2022/mental-health/

I asked what the general public may not understand about food insecurity and about those affected?

Jennifer and Robert explained to me that food insecurity is not as simple as a physiological need for food, but also has huge impacts on one’s social and emotional well-being. They went on to explain that although there needs to be action on long-term solutions to food insecurity such as policy for livable wage or a basic income, in the short term providing food to people with financial needs, through food banks and cupboards is still vital. These resources help people assuage their immediate hunger, while also supporting social and emotional needs by knowing food and support are available.

A common reaction by the general public to those facing poverty and hunger is unfairly narrow: just get a job, work harder, pull up your “bootstraps”!

At Crouch, I was able to see the depth and complexity of the issue. The fact of the matter is, as Jennifer said, “you can’t focus on getting to a job interview if all you can focus on is the fact that you are hungry [and] need something to eat. It prevents you from taking that next step in whatever direction you need to take for safety and well-being”.

While this might seem obvious to some readers, I hadn’t thought about the way hunger can impact the activities of daily life in this way. Unpacking this, of course, if someone were to tell me that they were hungry and could not focus, or get through their to-do list, my reaction to them would be grounded in empathy. I would not expect them to be especially productive that day because I would know, that were I in their position, I would probably feel and behave in the same manner. However, it became apparent to me that our current society holds people facing food insecurity and poverty to an unrealistic standard. Society expects people experiencing food insecurity to work even harder to overcome their circumstances, all while experiencing the devastating physical and emotional effects of hunger and uncertainty.

How did we get to a place where we cannot collectively empathize with such basic human needs and act for change?

From: https://www.calgaryfoodbank.com/2022/mental-health/

The Community

Witnessing one of Crouch’s food insecurity targeted initiatives, the Hot Meal program, had an impact on me. I was surprised to find that although the initiative’s primary purpose was to provide food and resources, the program doubled as an event to build community.

Jennifer explained, “many people will come 45 minutes, even an hour early just to hang out and talk to each other and talk to staff, so it does become a social time as much as it is about the lunch.”

Sharing a meal together is a social experience, as much as it is meeting a biological need. Food insecurity means that a person is hungry, but it also means that, a lot of the time, people are missing out on opportunities to feel a sense of connection with others. Crouch’s programming reduces this isolation.

Looking back at the day I spent at Crouch, I now appreciate that being part of the experience and chatting with community members showed me that people who experience food insecurity are just people, like myself and everyone else. In fixating on finding solutions to a problem that a community faces, sometimes the line between the people and the problem becomes blurred and the response is too narrow; there are humans behind the headlines.

At the end of the day, everyone should have the right to equal access to basic needs, but also the equal right to dignity. Though the photo below is from a December 2022 CBC news article, I thought it clearly represented what I also witnessed: the warm and friendly community that Crouch creates and is known for.

From: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/crouch-nrc-food-warm-winter-wishes-1.6679249

Stigma and Empathy

There has been a common rhetoric of stigma and shame surrounding food insecurity, but Jennifer and Robert shared an unexpected twist in attitudes in the post-COVID era.

“The pandemic made food insecurity relevant to everyone for the first time because [that was a period when] you couldn’t walk into a grocery store, you had to wait in long lines to get access to what you needed. […] Shelves were often empty and [stores] had problems with inventory. Everybody felt at least a little bit of panic at that time. Did you have enough food? Were the grocery stores going to shut down? Because of the pandemic, most people have a sense of ‘we’ve all been there’ [..] even those of us who had never had would never otherwise be in that situation”.

It seems to me, that the COVID-19 pandemic acted like a sort of equalizer because it created a very specific point in history where almost everyone was experiencing some kind of insecurity around income, food, safety and hygiene products. I wonder if this experience, has started to break down myths, as people are getting a clearer picture of the larger systemic factors that influence the issue of food insecurity

I gained new insights by thinking about the everyday experience of people in our community and found this to be very inspiring. I think that this shows a beautiful part of human nature. Even in our darkest moments in history where bad things keep happening for seemingly nothing to show for it, as humans we come out on the other side having gained empathy and understanding of our fellow humans. Can we use this, to try to bring positive change and reach out our hand to people who face struggles every day?

I think that our capacity for empathy is key to advocating and fighting for systematic change.

From: https://www.artd.com.au/news/empathy-the-soft-skill-needed-to-harden-our-evaluation-practice/

Creating Change – What Can I Do?

With new insights I feel motivated to help with the issue of food insecurity, but just like many others, I also feel powerless to have an impact on such a huge issue. I asked Jennifer and Robert, “How can I, as an average Londoner, make a positive impact in improving food insecurity?”

Here’s what I heard:

  • Participate and use the power you do have by involving yourself in government; at the very least, educate yourself on issues that matter to you and vote accordingly.
  • Take opportunities to provide input. For example, when the City of London asks for feedback on London’s strategic plan, don’t  ignore the call! Bring up food insecurity!
  • Use your voice to highlight and emphasize the holes in social policies
  • If you see a gap in your community, build your own initiative, for example a community garden or a bake sale
  • Get people involved
  • Amplify the work of food security-oriented organizations on social media and stay updated on organizations’ activities, share their message with the people in your own circle

Community initiatives foster a sense of stability and security, which is an important aspect of peoples’ lives that is often overlooked.

The Crouch website has details about Basic Needs and Advocacy.

The 211 website lists many community programs and resources by region.

Thank you to Jennifer Martino and Robert Templeton at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre, for this interview.

Written by Hooria Haider

This series was developed by Samantha Campanella and Hooria Haider, Western University, Health Sciences Students, Community Engaged Learning placement with CRHESI. Christine Garinger, CRHESI Coordinator, was series editor.

Food Insecurity: A Hidden Issue on Campus

Food insecurity has devastating impacts on students’ health and well-being at Western. As we explored in the first blog of this series, Food Insecurity Affects Us All: A 360 Degree View of the Issues, food insecurity exists across the London community and beyond, but the public is often unaware of the depth of this issue among university students. Many might assume that students in higher education are removed from issues related to poverty, such as food insecurity. I explored the issue further, speaking with student leaders at Western. I was curious about the ways myths fuel stigma related to food and financial circumstances of Western’s students.

Food Support Services Coordinator at Western’s University Students’ Council (USC), Jenna Lam told me, “It’s hard to have daily functioning when you do not have an adequate supply of nutritious foods, which can have a huge impact on students’ mental health, as well as academic performance.”

Kesavi Kanagasabai, the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) Vice President and Student Services executive elaborated, “There is a direct correlation on mental and physical well-being and the lack of adequate food/nutrients. This is then rippled into social and behavioral aspects of life. Whether it be feeling insecure, acknowledging and sharing it with your peers, this affects the triad of mental, physical and social well-being and creates this continuous negative feedback loop unless addressed at the root. As graduate students, they are exposed to complex environments through their research, teaching, and community involvements where this triad is further amplified. Furthermore, with identifying as being food insecure this makes us question whether students are dismissing their health as well, such as avoiding mental and physical check-ups/medication due to the increasing cost of services.”

Food insecurity on post-secondary campuses has been a hidden problem. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unstable economy, and sharply rising inflation rates are further contributing to the growing issue of food insecurity among university students.

The infographic below from the fall of 2022 shows results of a survey of Western graduate students, indicating that 44% of respondents experience food insecurity. You can read the full report on the SOGS website.

Image from https://sogs.ca/news/

 “Food insecurity is a systemic issue. One thing that people don’t tend to realize is that income inequality is a huge issue tied to food insecurity and a lot of times this isn’t really talked about in the media. It’s important that we’re not just focused on food charity necessarily but also things like financial needs for students, which is intertwined with food insecurity” – Jenna Lam, Western USC Food Support Services Coordinator

While low income is the proximate cause of food insecurity, looking beneath the surface reveals it as a complex interplay of political, economic, institutional, and cultural factors.

“Students from lower socioeconomic status, people that live with disabilities, marginalized communities and international students are hit the hardest with food insecurity, especially those with dependents” -Kesavi Kanagasabai

“International students are often misinformed about the cost of living in Canada, especially due to the way that offer letters are sent out. – Kevin Moore

“Food insecurity is a larger issue of people not being able to understand the complexity and intersectionality of privilege. There are so many unique situations that we see come through our office…There are so many little factors that feed into someone’s situation of being food insecure beyond income”

Kevin Moore, SOGS VP academic

Student-Led Initiatives

Image from https://westernusc.ca/services/food-support-services/

Western’s USC advocates for undergraduate students experiencing food insecurity. Since opening in 2017, USC’s  Food Hamper programs try to fill a gap between student needs and their resources. Students can confidentially sign-up online and pick up a food hamper in a locker in the basement of the University Community Centre. Volunteer program staff report that the digital Food Hamper is a highly accessed program as it aims to protect Western students’ dignity – the anonymous format reduces experiences of shame and embarrassment. From September 1, 2022 to March 15, 2023, there have been a total of 585 food hampers and 20 food gift cards distributed with 1122 students dropping into the USC Food Bank.

“Working in the food bank, I’ve noticed that there is a significant number of students who still feel stigma. A lot of people are nervous about food insecurity and because of that, the USC food bank works hard to reiterate the words ‘safe space’ to students, to ensure that students feel comfortable coming into the food bank”. – Jenna Lam

SOGS at Western University launched a food bank in 2017 for graduate students, specifically for those not earning an income from teaching. In the 2022/23 academic year so far, the program has served approximately 516 students.

Cameron Cawston, VP Student Support and Programming said that food banks in Ontario and across Canada are accessed more frequently than before indicating that the need extends beyond campus, into the community.   Cawston also added that food insecurity isn’t a new problem, it’s just one that’s finally being talked about. “Food insecurity is not new to post-secondary students, rather this is the beginning of an active conversation about this issue. Just because we’re having conversations about food insecurity, doesn’t mean that it is a brand-new issue”

We need a coordinated response across various sectors and members

“It’s important that systems work together”

USC’s Jenna Lam

I would like to thank Cameron Cawston & Jenna Lam from USC Food Support Services and Kevin Moore & Kesavi Kanagasabai from SOGS, for taking the time to share their perspectives of food insecurity on campus, which helped to cultivate awareness on this increasingly prevalent issue.

Next in the series, we will look at community and system level solutions to food insecurity.

Written by Samantha Campanella

More information:

The Western USC website has information about food support services https://westernusc.ca/services/food-support-services/

The Western SOGS website has information about financial aid programs https://sogs.ca/about/

A news media article covered the increased requests from students in November 2022 https://globalnews.ca/news/9282855/western-university-food-bank/

The SOGS website has results of the Housing and Food Insecurity Survey https://sogs.ca/surveys/

This series was developed by Samantha Campanella and Hooria Haider, Western University, Health Sciences Students, Community Engaged Learning placement with CRHESI. Christine Garinger, CRHESI Coordinator, was series editor.