Feeding community.

A Tayybeh employee prepares a meal

Tayybeh, a social enterprise that employs newcomer Syrian women chefs, delivered meals to vulnerable communities during the pandemic, including refugees, low-income individuals, seniors, and members of the Indigenous community.

When COVID-19 first struck and shuttered stores and services, food security was top of mind for Krystal Renschler. “Longstanding support systems in the community were disrupted overnight,” explains the Vancity Community Investment Portfolio Manager. “We had to act quickly to get resources into the hands of community leaders as fast as possible so they could be responsive to immediate needs. Feeding people was at the top of that list, and the best thing we could do was provide financial support to those who had the capacity and connections to get meals to those who needed them.”

One of the organizations with the heart to help and the skills to feed a large group of people was Vancity business member Tayybeh. This full-service catering social enterprise employs newcomer Syrian women chefs with no previous formal work experience. With a $50,000 grant from Vancity, Tayybeh developed a meal delivery service for vulnerable communities, including refugees, low-income individuals, seniors, and members of the Indigenous community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. As a result, Tayybeh delivered 5,000 meals to those in need over the course of four months at the height of the pandemic.

The best thing we could do was provide financial support to those who had the capacity and connections to get meals to those who needed them.

Five Tayybeh employees prepare meals for delivery

At first glance, the benefit was obvious. Tayybeh ensured people in need had access to nutritious meals. But the benefit was two-fold to Krystal and founder Nihal Elwan: the work kept Tayybeh’s employees — mostly refugee women — employed.

The creation of Tayybeh was almost accidental. When Nihal volunteered as a translator for newcomer families in 2015, she witnessed their struggles with housing, childcare and employment due to language barriers and lack of work experience. Having just moved to Canada herself the year prior, she wanted to do more.

The idea was simple: Pop-up dinners for the newcomer women to cook their Syrian cuisine and meet fellow Canadians. Sold-out dinners became the norm and people began asking how they could order the food for their meetings and private events. So, in 2016, after discussions with the team of Syrian chefs, Nihal launched Tayybeh. A business member since day one, Tayybeh now employs 10 to 15 women creating financial independence, community and some of the best Syrian cuisine in Vancouver.

Deconstruction over demolition.