Posts Tagged ‘special diet’

Upcoming workshops at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre

October 4, 2012

For people living on low income, being able to cook nutritious meals can be a challenge. Healthy food is often more expensive per calorie than less healthy processed food, and it can be hard to find the time and money to cook healthy meals from scratch. Like Melissa blogged about here, it can be hard to afford a nutritious diet after other monthly necessities have been paid for. People on low-income are also disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are hard to manage on a limited income due to the price of nutritious food.

To help people manage the barriers they face to eating nutritiously on low income, the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre is hosting a monthly workshop called Eat Well Spend Less. This workshop is on once per month at the centre, and participants actually get to cook a meal with the workshop leader while learning more about eating healthy on a budget. To give you a sneak peek, October’s workshop is Thanksgiving themed. At the workshop you can expect to learn basic food skills, like food safety, and to talk about the nutritional content and cost of the meal. Workshop leaders will also offer tips for saving on ingredients. After cooking, everyone gets to enjoy the meal together.

Another workshop going on at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre is the Take Charge series, a workshop series meant for anyone experiencing a chronic health condition. A chronic health condition is simply a health condition which persists for a long time, whether it is mental or physical. This can include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, chronic pain, depression and anxiety among others. The topics covered in the six-week workshops range from goal setting and stress management, to healthy eating and exercising.

Take Charge is a peer-led workshop, meaning it is co-led between someone who has experienced a chronic health condition as well as a Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre staff person. It is meant to be a supportive group setting, where people experiencing chronic health conditions can learn from and support one another.

The ability to eat nutritiously and manage chronic conditions are interrelated, and we see the effects of them every day. Like we have discussed in previous posts (such as this one), if someone cannot afford nutritious food it exacerbates the effects of diseases such as diabetes.

Both workshops require registration. The Eat Well Spend Less workshop happens the second Monday of each month from 1:00-4:00 pm at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre. Contact Charla to register at 519-745-4404 extension 242.

The Take Charge workshop series is every Monday from October 15th to November 19th, 1:30-4:00 pm and is also at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre. To register, call 866-337-3318.

Living on low income with diabetes

June 28, 2012

Imagine you’re a single mother working a minimum wage job, and you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Minimum wage is certainly not a living wage, and the kinds of food that one can afford working $10.25 per hour are limited, especially if you’re supporting yourself and your children. The more nutritious food you can afford to purchase will typically go to feeding your kids first, and you will have whatever is left. You rely on food hampers to ease the financial burden of buying food, but you can’t rely on them being filled with the options you need to manage your diabetes. What’s more, the current situation and stress of living on low-income while raising a family takes precedence over getting support to manage living with diabetes. It’s nearly impossible to make specialist appointments because of your work schedule and your kids’ school schedule, and bus fare can add up quickly.

Something we are constantly thinking about at the Emergency Food Hamper program is how we can better accommodate people’s dietary needs, whether they are for medical, religious, or other reasons. One common disease that affects many of our patrons is type 2 diabetes. As you can see from the example at the beginning of this post, people’s income level very heavily determines their level of health (for more on the social determinants of health, read Matt’s blog post here). This is particularly true of diabetes; in 2010, Statistics Canada found that women living on low income were more likely than their more privileged counterparts to develop the disease (read a news article on this here, and the actual report from Statistics Canada here). On top of this, the complications of living with diabetes are much harder to manage if you are living on low income. Because we try to provide the best nutrition options for people who come in for hampers, we have to pay attention to how diabetes affects people living on low income and try to accommodate that as best we can.


Another Perspective on ‘Being Here’

June 22, 2011

A few weeks after I started this job, I met Maria.  She was part of a Guatemalan family that I registered. It was their first time to our program and they were accompanied by a support worker who spoke Spanish.

The husband and wife stared at me as I leafed through their paperwork— government issued for landed refugee claimants—and began to set up their file. They didn’t speak any English and were obviously uncomfortable with the entire process.  For the relatively small number of newcomer families that I deal with, this isn’t totally uncommon.  Many of them are using services like ours for the first time.  Sometimes there are cultural differences that make the whole experience a little overwhelming or stressful. I just assumed it was a new experience for them and carried on with the intake process, using their support worker as an interpreter.

“Do they have any food allergies or special diets?” I asked.

I wished I could speak Spanish so that I could better ease their worry and assure them we could help and were happy to do so.

“She is pregnant” the caseworker said.  “In fact, she is due next month. Would that make a difference?”

“OK.” I replied, “We’ll make a note of it.  Let her know that when the baby is here, we can give her some baby items as well, once a month.  In the meantime, we can put some extra things in the hamper that are appropriate for her.  Also, could you tell me their address?”

“Actually,” the caseworker replied, “they just arrived into the country a few hours ago – currently they are staying at a refugee shelter.” (more…)

Diet, matters

October 8, 2010

Where I was born and grew up, people consume and cook a number of different food items, things that most people in Canada would be unfamiliar with. There aren’t too many things that I grew up eating that are sold here in the local stores, just like there aren’t a lot of people selling hot dogs on street corners where I was born. Food is very different depending on where you are in the world. (more…)

What is Ramadan in Islam?

September 15, 2010

Hello, my name is Nadir, I am an intake worker at the food hamper program, and for my first blog post I will talk a little bit about the holy month of Ramadan which has just finished.

Waterloo Region is a growing part of Ontario, and has always been a place where different people from different parts of the world come together, to live, to work and build a better life. These people bring their ideas, cultures and spirituality with them to their new home. We have always had strong Mennonite roots since the early days, but to that have been added different denominations of Christianity, and other religions, including, but not limited to Islam. (more…)

Not your traditional milk – but just as good!

September 14, 2010

Any of the volunteers and staff who have worked at our program over the last two years will likely be able to tell you something about goat’s milk, as it’s been a familiar donation to our program over this period. Because it’s a regular donation for our program, some of our faithful blog readers may also feel familiar with this product since we’ve likely mentioned it in a few earlier blogs. Either way, let’s continue the trend in helping more people become familiar with goat’s milk! (more…)

Rice is a family favourite

April 26, 2010

There is a Japanese proverb from the Lord’s Prayer that translates to “a meal without rice is no meal.” Todays discussion of rice is the third piece in a series of patron reflections regarding staple foods such as pasta, potatoes, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter. On a fairly regular basis our program only has the supplies of rice to offer one 500 gram bag to families of three people or more. Therefore many families are often forced to go without rice for any meal or dish, which is very challenging.

“Hey, why don’t we get rice anymore? It used to be a big staple for me but now I can’t afford it.” – Single man, mid 50s

“Not having rice is pretty depressing…lowers your self-esteem and you don’t feel good about yourself.” – Single male, 40s

The fact that rice is a very nutritious side dish is one reason patrons stated that they enjoy having rice at home. A female in her 40s comments that rice is her families’ preferred choice for a side dish because the calorie and fat contents are miniscule. Rice is a complex carbohydrate which digests slowly in the body, so you’re able to hold on to the useable energy for a longer period of time. Rice is also low in sodium, high in protein and gluten free – it’s a healthy food that is appropriate for any diet.

Special diets are something our program tries to accommodate as much as possible. One father of 4 that I spoke to, who has his mother living with his family, is thankful for our supply rice as his mother suffers from Celiac’s disease. For his family rice is one of the easiest side dishes to accommodate her special diet while meeting the needs of his family. Most of the gluten-free foods are expensive, hard to find, and rarely donated in food drive collections. Therefore when rice isn’t available at home, “it’s difficult because you have to re-plan so many meals…try to accommodate five diets and then you’re limited on what you can do.”

“It can be easier to buy pasta and rice…When money is low fruits and vegetables fall to the bottom of a shopping list… they don’t last as long. When I buy lots of rice then I need to access food assistance for fruits and vegetables.” – Single female, 30s

“If you don’t have rice, you’re really poor. I think it’s one of the cheapest foods.” – Female, 40s

Many people accessing emergency food assistance are living with fixed incomes. Therefore it is hard to stretch the budget to find room for rice in between the need for fruits and vegetables, meat, and milk. A single mom with four children often feels like she can’t afford rice unless it’s on sale though; “It’s hard for me because I always try to make sure the kids don’t know there’s not a lot there, so I look through my cupboards and cook whatever I have.” Without rice her family has to find new side dishes and a different base for the lentils and beans they often eat.

“Well it’s not great…rice is a filler.” – Single mom with 3 kids, late 40s

“They miss the rice (when it’s not at home)…Rice is a basic food in my home country – you eat in the lunch and in the dinner – sometimes you eat for breakfast with eggs.”” – Female, later 40s

Rice is an essential food to many cultures including European, Asian and Central American. In these cultures most meals often incorporate rice into stuffed peppers, casseroles, side dishes, stir-fries, and much more. For one mom of three children rice is probably the most important food to have at home, as her husband feels like he needs to have rice with at least one meal every day of his life. But he’s learning to slowly adjust to not eating rice all the time since the family cannot afford it, which isn’t easy for anyone. “My family feels very depressed. I work full-time but don’t feel like it’s worth anything since I still can’t afford food. I develop illnesses because we don’t eat well.”

“Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook”Chinese saying