Age Friendly Cold Lake has had its food security project extended to the end of March.

The project, which was originally due to expire December 31, is funded by a provincial grant. No new money has been added to extend the project, but Age Friendly has been given more time to implement its program.

The aim is to make sure area seniors have enough good, easy-to-prepare food. By addressing food concerns, the organization hope they will be able to connect seniors with resources to help them with any other difficulties they may be facing.

The initial phase of the project has been a 50 per cent subsidy for the Cold Lake and District Family and Community Services (FCSS) Meals on Wheels program. But Age Friendly chair Diane Stonehocker says they are looking at other ways to make good, inexpensive food available.

“We have approval from the provincial government to extend the grant to March 31,and so we came up with some more ideas of how we could use this money effectively over an extended period of time,” Stonehocker said. “

“We put in a proposal to expand the frozen meal program, and continue with the Meals on Wheels program.”

With the donation of a deep freeze from Furniture Galaxy, Age Friendly has been able to stock a supply of pre-made frozen meals. The meals are made specifically for seniors, with appropriately balanced nutrition. Low-fat, gluten-free, and low-sodium choices are among the selections.

The meals are purchased from Heart To Home Meals in Edmonton, and delivered to Age Friendly every month.

Stonehocker and Age Friendly outreach worker Cathy Aust have tried the meals and given them to others as a trial. They said are impressed by the quality. 

“They are nutritionally-balanced, high-quality, well-produced, flash-frozen foods that are geared towards the seniors’ needs,” Aust said. 

Stonehocker agrees. “These frozen meals are not the TV dinners you get for two bucks at the supermarket,” she said. “They’re healthier and they taste better, frankly.”

The meals are available from Age Friendly at a subsidized price for people 65 and older. 

Stonehocker says financial hardship is one reason why people don’t eat properly, but there can be other, more temporary obstacles where having some prepared meals on hand would be useful—upon release from the hospital, perhaps, or in cases of bereavement.

“It’s something we can offer if it’s a senior and somebody’s left at home alone,” she said. “If one member of a couple dies and there’s somebody home alone, we can provide a voucher for some meals.”

Age Friendly is also nearing an agreement with a community group who would provide volunteers to deliver groceries. The client would place their own order at a local supermarket for curbside pickup, and the volunteer would pick it up and deliver it for them.

Aust says there’s a lot of seniors who could use a hand, whether it’s the financial help from subsidized meals or just having good, easy-to-prepare food available to them. And sometimes there are other issues as well—isolation, loneliness, or elder abuse, for example. She hopes that by taking care of food security, Age Friendly can also earn the trust of people who need to come forward and get whatever help they need.

Covid has put a damper on a lot of Age Friendly services and activities, but Aust says whether a senior needs help with food or anything else, to give them a call.

“Age Friendly does offer other services, it’s a little hard with Covid right now. We can’t send in friendly visitors or anything else like that. But we do have these other programmes,” she said.

 “And if anybody needs anything just reach out to us, as long as they’re a senior we’ll do what we can. And if we can’t, we’ll make sure that we know who can, and where to send people.”