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End of funding for seniors food program leaves some ‘abandoned’

The end of the funding for two food programs in Nanaimo has left seniors who can’t leave their homes with few options.

The Nanaimo Family Life Association’s Foodshare program being one of them, which helps seniors who cannot leave their homes due to physical or mental issues.

“The seniors I support have many debilitating  health issues, not to mention mental health issues,” says Volunteer Gregory Brown. “Their health has probably declined as a result of COVID. If I go back three years, probably, their mobility was a little bit better than what it is today. Certainly their health has not improved any, and certainly their mental health hasn’t improved any. One of the seniors I support, she has debilitating anxiety and, and depression. She does not leave her house, and she has like no cell phone, no computer, no nothing.”

As just one volunteer, he helps seven seniors specifically, but in general he says the program is helping around fifty seniors with their grocery shopping.

“There’s no clear direction of what’s really going on. I feel with what the Nanaimo Family Life Association has been doing for me… They should be allowed some kind of funding to help the seniors that it’s helping,” said Maureen Moore, one of the seniors Brown assists.

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Moore is around 70-years old, and was told about the program by her neighbor.

“Like I told my neighbor, it’s a very cruel world right now. I’m trying my best to follow through and I don’t wanna cause trouble,” said Moore. “We’re all in trouble. It’s like, ‘it is basically what it is. Don’t worry about it, Maureen.’ Cuz we’ve been abandoned.” 

Moore suffers from anxiety and depression that keeps her inside. Other seniors, such as Minnette Albrecht, have physical disorders that keep them from going outside.

“It’s very hard for me to know when I wake up every day, [I don’t] if I’m going to have a good day or a not good day. A not good day could involve me pulling the covers back over my head and taking some meds and hoping the pain goes away,” said Albrecht. “I deal with a lot of layers of pain. Just the support of knowing that once a week my shopper’s gonna call and Greg with the frozen meals was gonna call, it’s very reassuring because it’s a link to the outside world.”

Albrecht is 71 years-old, and has fibromyalgia, arthritis, sciatica, among other things. She says she feels marooned in Nanaimo, as she’s had little support available other than the food shopping program.

“It’s hard to make social links because I have to be extra careful compared to other people. Even before COVID though, I’ll be honest with you, I live a very isolated life. A lot of it has to do with my back and, and pain issues. So what [this program] has done is it’s a human contact. I know that somebody is there… Greg has always said, if I really need some help just to pick up the phone.”

She says its important to have that support when her family is far away, and her closest friend lives further than Qualicum Beach.

Some other supports are available, but not everyone is able to easily access them.

“If you do it through SaveOn, I don’t think SaveOn charges, but I think you have to have a minimum grocery order… whether it’s $50 or $100, I’m not sure,” says Brown. “Then the flip side of that is you have to have the comfort level with technology, and I would probably argue out of the seven people who I support, there are probably two who do and the other five don’t.”

Additionally, he says some do not have the ability to go to a foodbank due to mental or physical issues.

The funding will end today, and Brown has written a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix asking to continue funding the program.

“These programs provide nutrition, safety, human interaction and dignity, hope and compassion,” written as an excerpt from his letter. “Almost all the seniors I support are on financial support. What’s the alternative? Starve? Risk their safety in an increasingly unsafe community? Pay more for unhealthy food supplied by fast food services and delivery services like SkipTheDishes? The cancellation of these programs will significantly impact their health with poorer meal choices and significantly impact their psychological well-being. All who I have supported these past 2.5 years have expressed disappointment, and despair with the cancellation of the programs.”

The funding originated due to COVID challenges, but Brown says those problems have not gone away for seniors.

News of the funding’s cancellation was given to him and others two months ago.

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