Boys & Girls Club: Multicultural Food Program

2022 Update

What were some of the challenges you faced in implementing your project?

The Club didn’t face significant obstacles that prevented us from achieving the core objects of this project. Fortunately, the greatest challenge that we faced was mediating discussions between participants regarding which restaurants should be included in the range of options available to them over the course of the program. We’re very pleased that Club members were excited about this initiative and so enthusiastically, actively engaged in selecting the restaurants. Thankfully, the size of the Seedling grant enabled the Club to eventually take members to each of the restaurants discussed at the beginning of the grant period!

Did you need to make any adjustments as you proceeded?

Minor adjustments were implemented on a rare basis – for example, A Single Pebble does not have the seating capacity to accommodate groups larger than 10 simultaneously, so we arranged to have the meal delivered and participants had dinner family-style at the Club. East West Café was originally identified as a restaurant with which to partner through this initiative, but unfortunately permanently closed during the grant period. Little Morocco Café was temporarily closed during the majority of the grant period but has recently reopened, and we hope to take Club members there in the future. 

What was the most surprising or unexpected outcome of your work? The most satisfying?

There was some level of trepidation regarding whether Club members would be eager to participate in this initiative, given that it is fairly common for young people to experience discomfort when trying new foods from cultural traditions with which they aren’t familiar. These concerns were entirely misplaced! Program staff members were extremely pleased by the degree to which our members enthusiastically embraced these new experiences, and that participants even regarded trying food items they found challenging as a fun adventure. We are very proud to serve a group of young people who were so excited to try new things, and we’re thrilled that the experience itself proved joyful and enriching for the young people participating.

How will the work enabled by this Seedling Grant continue over the next few years? How will it grow? What are your next steps?

The Seedling Grant has positively impacted important aspects of the culture at the Club. 

We have long prided ourselves on the care put into our meal service program and the quality of the meals and snacks served at the Club. However, in 2020 COVID-19 disrupted many of the systems and organizations that we had relied on to implement this initiative effectively. During the first phase of COVID shutdowns, the Club coordinated an emergency food distribution program to ensure that vulnerable families still had reliable access to staple grocery items. However, even after schools and other important institutions were able to reopen, we recognized that families continued to suffer from acute financial insecurity, some to the point of facing the very real prospect of seeing their children go hungry. Additionally, staffing shortages at partner organizations like the Burlington School Food Project made it difficult for organizations like the Club to maintain levels of service we had achieved prior to the pandemic. 

In summary, vulnerable families in our community were struggling and organizations were having difficulty ensuring that these households saw their most basic needs met. The Seedling grant from City Market enabled the Club to establish a Multicultural Food Program, which not only helped to address drastically increased food insecurity in a community that was already struggling, but also introduced more cultural diversity into the meals enjoyed by Club members through our program. Additionally, this initiative provided crucial support local BIPOC restaurants during a time in which many such businesses were struggling. 

This initiative not only represents the beginning of a concerted effort to introduce higher levels of cultural diversity and inclusivity to the Club’s food program, but also to our curriculum more broadly as part of a larger goal to ensure that the Club as an organization reflects the unique community of families we serve. 

What new connections between people or organizations were fostered by this work?

Club members went to many new restaurants as part of this initiative, both in Burlington and further throughout the state as part of field trips. Some of these include Kismayo Kitchen, Briston Halaal, Sherpa Kitchen, GBG Indian Kitchen, Pho Hong, Laliguras Indian-Nepali Restaurant, Thai Phat, Pho Dang, Tiny Thai, Sushi Yoshi, A Single Pebble, and others.

We introduced dozens of Club members to cuisine they had never experienced before in friendly, relaxed environments where they were surrounded by friends and supportive adults who could answer questions regarding aspects of the menu these young people found unfamiliar or challenging. Club members from the migrant communities represented by some of these restaurants took especially great pleasure and pride in sharing cuisine from their own culture and introducing it to friends from different traditions who had never experienced it before. We’re proud that this initiative helped to build small bridges between youth from different communities in Burlington through the shared act of enjoying a delicious meal. 


2021 Grant Amount: $7,000

The goal of the Club’s Multi-Cultural Food Program (MCFP) is to provide the youth we serve with a greater range of meals which will better reflect the cultural preferences of significant numbers of our members, while at the same time introducing others to culinary with which they would otherwise not likely have access.

The Club plans to accomplish this goal by purchasing and serving meals from restaurants owned and operated by members of BIPOC and New American communities that are highly represented among Club members and their families but which have been historically underrepresented in our community. The Club will work with the following partners to accomplish this goal: Kismayo Kitchen, Briston Halaal, East West Café, GBG Indian Kitchen, Little Morocco Café, Pho Hong, and Thai Phat. 

The Club plans to implement the MCFP throughout the course of the 2021-22 academic year, including this enriching initiative into the Club’s out-of-school operations in support of our broader efforts to incorporate the principles of cultural inclusively throughout our daily work with the youth we serve.

The Club has created a food service program that addresses food insecurity in our neighborhood by providing nutritious, high-quality meals and snacks to Club members and their families. However, our ability to provide a wide range of meals from diverse communities is limited by the ingredients offered through wholesalers through this program. By partnering with restaurants owned and operated by individuals from socially marginalized and historically underrepresented communities, the Club will better serve our members while at the same time supporting businesses that reflect the community we serve.

The Boys and Girls Club of Burlington has created a meals program to help alleviate childhood hunger in our neighborhood and, more recently, an emergency food distribution program to address drastically heightened levels of food insecurity due to COVID-19. 

These programs have been extremely successful in meeting the existing and emerging needs in our community, but the challenge of food insecurity persists in our neighborhood. An important component of the Club’s emergency food program was partnering with the Everyone Eats program to distribute meals from local restaurants to families in need of support. This program enabled the Club to supplement our existing food support efforts with meals from local restaurants that better reflect the cultural practices of a significant number of Club members, while at the same time introducing others to cuisine which they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to enjoy.

Unfortunately, the funding for the Everyone Eats program appears to be likely to expire shortly. While the Club is extremely proud of our successful food service and emergency food distribution programs, in the absence of outside support this change will almost completely reduce the Club’s ability to provide our members with meals from a culturally diverse range of sources.

Through the Club’s Multi-Cultural Food Program, we hope to continue to provide the same level of access to high-quality meals from restaurants whose menus reflect the diversity of the community we serve. In addition to more fully supporting youth from socially and economically marginalized backgrounds, this program will provide a necessary source of revenue for BIPOC-owned restaurants that have endured the economic hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This program will strengthen Burlington’s food system by ensuring that youth from underserved households have access to high-quality meals reflecting a diverse array of communities, while at the same time supporting BIPOC-owned businesses in Burlington.