Highlighting mental health during the pandemic with Social Crust Cafe

Rachel Lee

The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a decline in mental health across Canada, with 1 in 7 study participants reporting experiencing a high degree of mental health issues. Grim news reports, reduced social interactions and uncertainty for the future have all contributed to negative outlooks, with vulnerable people placed at higher risks due to lack of support and familiar routines. For help, the CDC has provided a guide on coping with stress from the pandemic.

As a social enterprise from local non-profit Coast Mental Health, the Social Crust Cafe helps improve the lives of individuals dealing with mental health challenges by providing training and employment under their Culinary Skills Training Program. Social Crust has faced new challenges under the pandemic with fewer customers and attendance restrictions on their training programs. Adriana Jang, Catering Operations Manager, is confident that Social Crust will continue to bring awareness to mental health and provide support to those in need.

Masked For Work: We love that you are part of Coast Mental Health’s Culinary Skills Training Program and promote mental health in such a positive way. What kind of impact did the pandemic have on the program and your students? 

Adriana Jang: The pandemic has affected a lot of people’s mental health. During the first phase of the pandemic, we hosted a Zoom Home Cooking Challenge to stay engaged with our students and staff. That was helpful in maintaining connection and having an activity to do during uncertain times. The students used the skills learned from the program and executed cooking recipes in their home. Some of the families and parents were very grateful for the challenge as it kept them well fed!

Social Crust Cafe Home Cooking ChallengeSocial Crust's Home Cooking Challenge encouraged Culinary Program participants
to cook a dish from home based on an assigned letter of the alphabet.

MFW: It’s awesome to hear that you’ve continued to teach through Zoom and that students have been sharing their cooking with their families. We’ve all struggled with feelings of uncertainty and loss, and it has been a challenge to keep connected while staying apart. Staying active socially and mentally by engaging frequently with peers is important to remaining positive and hopeful in the present. 

MFW: What changes in mental health would you like to see happen in our communities and culture?

Jang: I’d like to see more supportive services such as housing, supportive employment and education, as well as mental health awareness for the general public.

MFW: We love seeing all of the dedicated work that Social Crust and Coast Mental Health has done to raise awareness for better mental health, as well as help individuals succeed in their communities by providing housing, support services and employment opportunities.

MFW: Now that BC is opening up, are there any big plans you wish to share?

Jang: I’m taking it day by day and staying hopeful for the future. If all goes well, we will go back to “normal” in the Fall.

MFW: That’s good to hear. We also miss doing lots of activities from pre-pandemic days and we hope that things get better soon. In the meantime, we’ll be looking out for our friends and family and continuing to practice public health measures, including wearing our masks.

Social Crust Cafe with Masked For Work Pride masks
The Social Crust Cafe team at work, wearing our Pride masks!

MFW: Do you sense there is still hesitancy with businesses opening up while COVID-19 is still present in the city? Do you think that you will encourage customers and staff to still wear masks if we get to Stage 3 of BC’s reopening plan where masks are optional?

Jang: Our plans all depend on Coast Mental Health’s safety plan.

MFW: That makes sense. It’s good to be cautious while we are still in a pandemic and continue wearing masks while working to ensure that your staff and customers stay safe. Working in the service industry creates a lot of interactions with the public and you can’t always be sure who is vaccinated or who might have the virus. We wish the best of luck for you and the Social Crust Cafe team!

Masked For Work and Social Crust Cafe Pride themed face masks

Masked For Work has partnered with Social Crust Cafe to provide special Pride themed masks, with 100% of mask sales at the cafe donated to local LGBTQ initiatives. Support local businesses by purchasing a Pride mask from Social Crust at their 335 West Pender location in downtown Vancouver or online from our website.

Follow Social Crust Cafe on social media to learn more about them!

Twitter: @social_crust
Facebook: www.facebook.com/socialcrust
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