Profile on Mobility and Delivering Food Assistance

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For about a year now this father has turned to our program for a little extra food assistance for himself and two teenage sons. Although one son has recently moved out, things aren’t getting any easier for his father. For a number of years he ran his own business,  but eventually maintaining his health began consuming all of his time. He’s had to let go of contracts and clients to find the time and energy for all his hospital visits and medical appointments, while his increasing weight loss leaves him reliant on a walker to help him travel almost any distance. The past few months he’s found himself unable to work at all, doing his best to manage his bills and expenses with his Ontario Works cheques. For the most part it’s been working out well; but as his prescription costs keep rising, money has been getting tight.  It’s a constant struggle to find extra money for transportation to his medical appointments and bus tickets for his sons to get to school. Considering all these factors,  it’s not hard to see why this father needs food assistance.

We’ll help anyone in need of food assistance, but the “problem” for this father is figuring out how to access our program. Right now the task of carrying a banana box-sized hamper home on the bus is almost impossible based on his health and mobility issues. He’s unable to afford a car or a taxi to pick up a hamper in person, and he doesn’t have any close family or friends in the area that he can ask for assistance from.  So today this father is calling our program to get food for the upcoming weekend, turning to his only resource in the area that is able to deliver food assistance.  Some Catholic churches through Saint Vincent de Paul (SVDP) are able to provide food deliveries in Kitchener-Waterloo, however this father does not live in an area with these resources. Though his SVDP church will be located somewhere close to his home, the idea of asking him to walk any distance when he relies on a walker is somewhat unreasonable. Thankfully, our program has two staff drivers and a volunteer driver who can deliver a box of food to help him fill his fridge and cupboards for the upcoming weekend.

The six hampers we typically offer in a year will provide food for a month approximately, depending on our donations. So I’ve always been curious how patrons with mobility issues get food for all the other days of the year when they’re limited on options for transportation and assistance. Fortunately, one of our volunteers who uses a wheelchair allowed me to ask him some of these questions to gain a little more insight into some of the challenges he faces in his day-to-day life.

This volunteer enjoys coming to our program because it’s an escape from being at home all the time, which isn’t always easy to do. Anytime he wants to make plans away from home, he needs to provide a week’s notice to his transportation services. But recently his transportation services let him down: the equipment to help him into the vehicle was not functioning correctly, and with no other transportation options, he couldn’t follow through with his plans. He was  forced to miss his social activity and had to plan an evening of fun at home instead.

Planning is a very important part of his life. Not only does he need to plan his transportation well in advance, but he also needs to plan out his grocery requests each month. Once a month he has an individual accompany him to a grocery store to pick up a large supply of groceries and toiletries. Obviously he can’t get enough fresh vegetables and fruit or milk for that period, but he can stock up on all the basics like bread, pasta, rice, canned meat, peanut butter, and cereal. Therefore he relies on a convenience store for fresh produce and milk, as it’s one of the few options located anywhere near his home. Though he may pay an extra amount for each product he buys, he finds this the only reasonable way of transporting all the food he needs to buy.

Looking at these two unique situations unveils the challenges and barriers a person with health and mobility issues can face in day-to-day situations, especially when accessing food programs or grocery stores. Luckily there are agencies and supports these people can rely on for food assistance, making one aspect of their lives a little less challenging, if only for a few days.

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