A year ago, Angela and her parents lived under hazardous clouds of smog in Shanghai, China's largest city. Bouts of dangerous pollution had become more frequent and, due to serious health risks, the trio left a comfortable life and everything they knew.

“We came to Vancouver for many reasons,” says Angela, “including a clean environment, educational opportunities and moderate weather. But moving wasn't an easy process.”

Adjusting to a new community and culture was challenging for Angela. Speaking little English made it difficult for her to make friends, and separation anxiety from leaving family and a country she loved was, at times, overwhelming.

“When I arrived in Canada, I didn't focus on being successful,” says Angela. “I just tried to get through.”

Angela's Road to Success

Eventually, financial pressures forced her to seek help from The Salvation Army's food bank. There, Angela learned about Sally Ann's Kitchen.

“We help vulnerable people, such as new immigrants and single moms, overcome obstacles, such as poor nutrition, budgeting and meal planning,” explains Joseph Fong of The Salvation Army's community and family services in Vancouver. “Many participants live in the Downtown Eastside, an area noted for its high incidence of poverty.”

In October 2013, the program's first set of 12 graduates were presented with certificates. Ranging in age from 20 to 60, the diverse group of women learned they didn't need a lot of money to eat well.

From learning how to cook from scratch in a cost-effective manner to knowing how to read labels and shop for healthy ingredients, Angela says the program has helped her overcome the struggles of starting over.

Beyond the program, healthy-eating food swaps encourage the graduates to stay in touch by exchanging homemade recipes with one another, adds Joseph: “It also provides an opportunity to build friendships in your local community with people you can count on for support.”

“I know how to make 12 new dishes, such as black bean soup and green curry chicken,” states Angela with pride. “More than that, I've made new friends, improved my language skills, have a sense of belonging and feel useful again.

“Sally Ann's Kitchen has had a huge impact on my life.”

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