WINCHESTER – From March 21-25, Carefor participated in March for Meals Week, an annual Ontario Community Support Association event now in its 20th year. The objective remained the same: to increase awareness and community engagement about meal programs. However, the need has never been greater!

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light just how essential the meal delivery program is for seniors in the rural communities of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Due to medical conditions, many local seniors were already struggling to access food to meet their nutritional needs. The pandemic further isolated them and numerous others who were no longer able to shop for groceries or cook for themselves.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Carefor experienced a tremendous surge in demand for meals and was able to respond by doubling its meal production thanks to one-time funding and generous donations. Its ability to meet the demand was temporary. Carefor could not sustain this due to the lack of ongoing funding and yet, the demand for meals continues to grow.

For this reason, this year’s March for Meals campaign focused not only on increasing awareness but also on raising funds to contribute to the overall goal of maintaining and even expanding the Meal Delivery Program in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Funds will support rising food costs associated with the program, as well as equipment upgrades to ensure maximum efficiency in meal production. Though the fee for clients is $7, the associated costs with producing, packaging, and delivering the meal is substantially more.

March for Meals allowed organizations like Carefor to speak out and shine a light on the importance of the meal delivery program and the need for increased funding to sustain it. During this week, local public figures joined the effort by speaking out about the program, delivering some meals themselves, and supporting community led initiatives. Local food-based initiative supporters including Legion member Sandra MacMillan of the Royal Canadian Legion Heather Branch 357, Terry Wagner – Firefighter from the Winchester branch of the North Dundas Fire Services, OPP Const. Shaver, OPP Const. MacPherson, and North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser joined the effort to raise awareness by helping to deliver meals to Carefor seniors, and to help educate the public on the need for these programs.

 “I started volunteering with the hopes of highlighting the need for meals, for our veterans as well as the importance of meal delivery for people in our North Stormont Communities,” said MacMillan.

“The Meal Delivery program is a very important program in the rural communities. It’s a great way to get affordable nutritional meals to individuals who do not necessarily have access to those meals otherwise,” said OPP Const. Shaver.

“The program is a great way to keep the community connected.”

Dianne Kuipers, manager of community support services – Carefor Eastern Counties said, “The pandemic shone a spotlight on access barriers to food and the nutritional needs of older adults. The March for Meals campaign provides an opportunity on an annual basis to increase awareness about this situation. The meal program is so much more than just a meal. It provides a safety check and a friendly visit to many who live alone, and it provides a volunteer opportunity to many who want to give back to their community. The need is evident. Because of the continued demand, Carefor aspires to grow the program equitably across SDG. Government funding and donations will help to achieve that goal.”

The number of meals delivered at peak of COVID-19 pandemic per week was over  1,000.

The number of meals delivered now per week is 510.

The number of seniors that have been able to move off the waitlist in recent months is 30 per cent based on an assessment of need.

The number of seniors still on the waitlist is 160.

The goal for expanding the program is to continue to advocate for ongoing funds to grow the program equitably across SDG.

For more information on the Carefor Meal Delivery program offered in North Dundas, please call (613) 774-6109. For more information on the Carefor Meal Delivery Program offered in North Stormont, please call (613) 984-2436. Additionally, for more information about Carefor, visit carefor.ca. Carefor is a local not-for-profit charity that provides home healthcare and community support services across Eastern Ontario. Whether in the home, in the community, at care facilities or one of its clinics, 1,500 staff are part of the circle of care that is tailored to clients’ needs. For more information, please visit carefor.ca.

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