A day in the life of a food hamper


Today is the fourth installment of our photo essay documenting our hampers and the people who receive them.

This will be a two-part post.  The photo and essay today, and then tomorrow, some additional information about diabetes and poverty.

Hunger and poverty are complicated and interrelated issues.  If you’re poor, you’re probably going to experience hunger to some degree, but not having enough money to make ends meet can mean more than just a hollow empty feeling in your stomach.  Being poor can have an impact on your health in the long-term.

One of many hampers distributed on November 9 2009

November 9 2009 – Single Senior

Today a 63-year-old, single woman, received emergency food from our program.  Her emergency food hamper was one of 124 we gave out for the day. This is not her first time; nor is it likely to be her last, since she has been accessing our program for the past 14 years. She receives Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD), which is a government form of financial assistance. She receives anywhere from $816.14 to $1,105.99 each month, which does not leave much money for food after paying monthly expenses.

This woman is also diabetic (type 1 and/or type 2), as are approximately five percent of all the people accessing emergency assistance at our program. Diabetes is a disease in which the body is not able to make or use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore a diabetic must monitor the types and amounts of certain foods in their diet so their body is able to regulate their blood sugar. Accommodating special diets such as diabetes are a high priority in our emergency food program, since we hold the belief that everyone has the right to nutritious and appropriate food according to their needs.

Today this patron received food that should last her three to five days, and that is appropriate to her diabetic diet. When packing hampers like this our volunteers rely on feedback from the patron and on “special diet cards” that describe specific modifications or alternatives for each food item available. She was able to receive fresh fruit, vegetables, as well as 100% pure fruit juice because our program received a large shipment of 1.89L cartons of orange juice from Loblaws.

However the program continues to be low on essential food categories such as meat and dairy products. There is still no canned meat or peanut butter available today; and the only dairy item available for a single person is a 200mL cup of yogurt, which is barely enough for a snack. The lack of dairy in the case of this elderly woman is especially significant because she faces a higher risk of osteoporosis with a diet that is consistently low in calcium and vitamin D.  With the limited amounts of milk our program receives each week, it is common that single people and smaller households requesting milk will be unable to receive it from us.

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