For those of us trying to make ends meet in a struggling economy, eating a healthy, nutritious diet can certainly be tough.

But for residents in the Downtown Eastside who rely on welfare, a filling, nutritious meal can seem like an unaffordable luxury. Social assistance provides a monthly cheque for $610, and after recipients spend $375 on shelter, they’re left with only $7.58 a day for food, transportation, clothing and entertainment.  Many of our neighbours must rely on charity to feed themselves, where the fare offered can be less healthy choices, and laden with sugar, salt and preservatives.

The Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House is looking to change that with its Mobile Smoothie Project, which shares smoothies with neighbours throughout the Downtown Eastside.

The day before welfare cheques are issued, when recipients are generally lowest on nutrition, a team of volunteers loads up shopping carts with rice milk, bananas and other fresh fruit and heads to the street with their blenders to hand out smoothies. These smoothies provide more than simple nourishment. By connecting with neighbours and offering healthy nutrition, the DTES NH builds community and inspires residents to learn how to make healthy food themselves.

“We’re not just handing out smoothies to neighbours, but are bringing a way to connect and show people that they can make healthy food easily with a blender,” says Paul Taylor, executive director of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House.

For more info about the Mobile Smoothie Project, visit

Want to make your own nutritious smoothie at home? Try this simple and delicious recipe.

Berry Good Smoothie (serves 1)

•    ¾ cup rice milk, or any other milk of choice
•    1 frozen banana
•    ¾ cup berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries – or a mix of all of them!)
•    Handful of spinach, optional (spinach adds some extra vitamins and minerals, and don’t worry – we promise you won’t taste it!)

In a blender, add the rice milk, banana and berries. If you’re using the spinach, add it first so it doesn’t fly up to the top of the blender when you turn it on.

Blend everything together until smooth. If you like a thinner consistency, add a bit more rice milk or water.