Walk for the Centre to support food security

This year’s Walk for the Centre will take place on October 6. All are welcome!

By Joe Courtright

Building on three years of successful community walks to highlight the need for food security in central Ottawa, organizers are preparing for a fourth Walk for the Centre on Sunday, October 6.

The walk originated when friends and supporters of the Centretown Emergency Food Centre looked for innovative ways to raise much-needed funds for a long-time neighbourhood resource, as well as to highlight that many in central Ottawa live without food security.

Each previous year’s Walk for the Centre has been more popular and better supported than the preceding one. Organizers from the Centretown Churches Social Action Committee (which includes six Glebe churches) anticipate this trend to continue in 2019. Walkathon organizer Elizabeth Kent highlights the fact that the Food Centre is our community resource. “Our motto is ‘neighbours helping neighbours’ and this is very much the message we want to convey – we welcome walkers of all ages.”

The Emergency Food Centre, located at 507 Bank Street in the basement of Centretown United Church (Bank at Argyle) serves people living in central Ottawa, including many in rooming houses, refugees and students. Its catchment area runs from Wellington Street to Billings Bridge, and from Lyon Street in the west to Main Street, including Lees Avenue, in the east.

The Centre receives support from many sources, but demand remains high. With food prices rising, it is an ongoing challenge to serve everyone who comes through the door. Members of 22 central Ottawa churches supply food and financial donations regularly. The Centre also receives an annual grant from the City of Ottawa, and some regular grocery donations from the Ottawa Food Bank. Food drives in local grocery stores, and schools and donations from generous individuals provide additional valuable support. Demand always exceeds available resources, making our fundraising efforts essential.

All are invited to join and support the Walk for the Centre. People in our community can turn out to show their support for food security, choose to raise funds from sponsors or make an individual donation. There will be two walk options with the focal point at City Hall. The main route is approximately three km and will take people along the Ottawa River around Parliament Hill, a great location for a Sunday afternoon stroll. A shorter route will also be available. The walk begins with a piper leading the way out of City Hall and ends back at the same location. Registration starts at 1:30 p.m. with local musical group, Aello, offering entertainment before the walk begins. Local councillors Catherine McKenney and Shawn Menard are strong supporters of the Food Centre and we hope they will be able to be join us for this important community event. Do mark your calendar and plan to come out on Sunday, October 6 to Walk for the Centre!

Joe Courtright is a long-time resident of the Glebe and a volunteer with the Centretown Churches Social Action Committee, the organizers of this walkathon.

Long-time volunteers with Meals on Wheels Jim and Pam Young deliver meals to seniors and persons with disabilities in central Ottawa. Photo: Jill Daigle

Volunteers needed to help Ottawa seniors at risk of going hungry

By Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr

Dorothy stands by her front window waiting for a familiar car to appear in her driveway. She’s a bit shaky on her aging legs, but she looks forward every day to the hot meal and the few minutes of friendly chatter that accompany it. She’s 90 now, and unable to get to the store or drag home the groceries. Cooking has also become an issue, since she finds it difficult to stand at the stove and has even accidentally left the stove on a few times. “Thank goodness for Meals on Wheels,” she thinks.

And there’s the car now. Dorothy is amazed that they still manage to get to her despite windstorms or power outages. “More reliable than Canada Post,” she chuckles. “And here comes the cavalry,” she jokes as she opens the door to delivery volunteer Steve. “Ta da!” he jokes back, and places the hot meal on her table.

Dorothy is one of a growing number of Ottawa seniors who are more at risk every year of going hungry. She hasn’t gone to the Food Bank yet, but a couple of her friends have. In fact, in 2018, the number of seniors using food banks to make ends meet jumped by 10 per cent, a trend that is expected to continue.

About 70 per cent of seniors live on fixed incomes, with about 20 per cent near or below the poverty line. As the cost of living rises and her income stays the same, Dorothy often has to choose between fixing a leaky tap or a cavity. She’s already given up her car, hoping to be able to afford to stay in the home where she raised her children.

Her son and daughter live far away now so Dorothy is rather lonely. Because of that, she’s at risk for depression. She’s glad for the daily check-in, as well as the hot meal. The volunteers can’t stay long since they have other deliveries to make, but they do brighten her day, and she tries to brighten theirs as well. Steve would agree. “Even though I can’t stay long, it’s wonderful to see the impact my visit and the hot meal is having on her situation. Her appreciation is clear and I know I’ve made a difference.”

Dorothy and Steve are not actual individuals, but rather represent the many Meals on Wheels clients and volunteers who form this special bond. Dorothy would be a typical member of Ottawa’s senior population, which is expected to double over the next dozen years, from about 125,000 now to 250,000 in 2031. Currently, seniors represent about 13 per cent of Ottawa’s population but that figure will rise to over 20 per cent.

One of the goals of the Age-Friendly Ottawa initiative is for seniors to live at home safely with health and community support services to meet their needs. Founded in 1968, Meals on Wheels is a critical part of that age-friendly plan and has been serving the Ottawa community for over 50 years. Last year, Meals on Wheels delivered almost 115,000 meals to 1,672 clients. How is this done? With the help of a dedicated team of over 400 delivery volunteers.

At the moment though, we are experiencing a critical shortage of volunteers and need to recruit more to remain able to do our work in the community. Many of our volunteers are seniors themselves and often have to retire from volunteering after a few (or many) years. Please consider joining their team this fall. The program is very flexible, able to accommodate volunteers’ schedules and availability. Each delivery route only takes two hours to complete but makes a world of difference for every one of the clients. For many social service agencies, volunteers fall into the “nice to have” category but for Meals on Wheels, our service simply can’t run (and be affordable to seniors) without volunteers.

If you or someone you know would benefit from receiving Meals on Wheels, if you would like to become one of those friendly delivery volunteers brightening the day of an Ottawa senior, or for more information please call Meals on Wheels (Ottawa) at 613-233-2424 and ask for Bau or Jill.

Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr is a writer/editor, and teaches part-time in the faculty of English at the University of Ottawa. She has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for almost 20 years.

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