Age Friendly Cold Lake will be lending a hand with the Cold Lake and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Meals on Wheels program within the city and into the MD of Bonnyville. 

The grant comes from money that the provincial government has earmarked to address Covid-related priorities. The grants are distributed by the FCSS Association of Alberta.

“Each community was able to submit proposals to their local FCSS,” said Age Friendly’s Diane Stonehocker. “We submitted a proposal for food security for seniors during the pandemic because that’s a big deal, and it’s an important deal to the government.”

The Meals on Wheels program runs on a cost-recovery basis: people who subscribe to the program pay for their meals at cost. Age Friendly’s funding allows the organization to subsidize the meals by 50 per cent for the six-month duration of the project, meaning less out-of-pocket costs for seniors and other clients.

The project also allows the meal program to expand into those parts of the MD of Bonnyville that are served by Cold Lake and District FCSS. Previously, it was only available within the city of Cold Lake.

Eligible clients can have a hot meal or frozen meals delivered within city limits. For reasons of food safety, only the frozen meals will be available in the MD. 

“We’re pretty excited about it. We’ve had some good feedback already,” Stonehocker said. “Currently a person can purchase a hot meal delivered Monday through Friday, or they can purchase a frozen meal or series of meals. What we’re likely going to offer to the MD residents is a frozen meal, or a week of frozen meals, or three out of five, or whatever they want to do.”

The grant also funds a six-month contract for an outreach worker. Often, Stonehocker said, people who utilize Meals on Wheels can use a hand with something else. Upon request, Age Friendly can help people find the resources and support they need.

“We want to find these people, who we know are out there, who are spending way too much time alone. Or others who maybe have food security issues—maybe they don’t have enough food or maybe they’re having difficulty getting groceries. Maybe they have other issues that are simply being ignored because they don’t know how to solve them,” she said.

The outreach will depend on referrals. “We’re hoping that people who read the newspaper article will say, ‘Oh, my neighbour might be interested in this.’ And hopefully they will go talk to their neighbor,” Stonehocker said. “We do not have the ability to go knock on somebody’s store and say, ‘I hear that you might need some food.’ It should be referral-based, either self-referred or through that neighbor, friend, or family member.”

She said through the outreach worker, Age Friendly can help  seniors access the services that would enhance their quality of life, stabilize their physical health, “and also maybe help them with their mental health.

“Social isolation is deadly for anybody, but especially for older people. And it has impacts on physical health.. All the studies talk about social isolation being as detrimental to a senior as smoking.”

Meals on Wheels is a service of Cold Lake and District FCSS. For more information, call (780) 594-4495.