As we celebrate our 10th anniversary and speaking on behalf of our staff team, I can tell you the past year has been the most challenging we’ve faced. Our community has struggled in so many ways and we know we are not alone in trying to navigate the ever-changing conditions we are faced with. COVID has increased food insecurity by 39%, and food costs are expected to rise significantly. This is an alarming statistic. One we cannot accept. One we must act on. We will continue to advocate with our good food partners across the country for changes to public policy at the national, provincial, and municipal levels that will even the playing field for the 1 in 7 households that struggle with the impossible decision of paying rent or feeding themselves and their families.
In March 2020, the thing we do best – bringing people together through the power of food – was all of a sudden too dangerous to continue. We were alarmed, but committed to ensuring we could continue to serve our community.
When we pivoted to a non-contact model of service delivery over a year ago we did not expect to have to maintain the model for so long. But we have – and we are proud to continue to help so many of our neighbours have access to healthy food, advocacy supports, and virtual learning experiences. In fact, since the pandemic started we have distributed over 54,000 meals; provided over 50 low-cost markets at wholesale prices, produced 33 virtual learning videos, facilitated safe gardening opportunities for many at our off-site community garden, and helped over 100 individuals connect to other community services and supports.
We have added delivery services of meals and market produce, which has been particularly beneficial to those that are isolated and living on their own. In an effort to stay connected, we engage in wellness calls to ensure these individuals have an opportunity to talk with another human being, if that is what they choose.
In addition to that, we have developed some amazing partnerships with other organizations:
Through our partnership with the City of Stratford we are able to ensure that those that are living without a home receive at least 2 healthy meal a day; our partnership with the Huron Perth Health Unit allows us to have a nurse practitioner and pharmacist on site twice a week to serve those that are at risk of homelessness and are without a family doctor; our partnership with Optimism Place provides fresh produce to current and past residents; and a partnership with the Perth-Huron Children’s Aid Society has allowed us to provide virtual cooking skills education to families they serve.
While we are proud of how we have navigated the pandemic crisis, we look to the future, and are planning for a time when we can come together to enjoy a meal together in our dining room, congregate around our kitchen island and prepared a meal with our neighbours during one of our many kitchen skills programs, stand side by side in our newly renovated greenhouse bringing new plants to life, and meet in our main foyer to strategize how we can work together to advocate for meaningful, positive change to the public policies that affect all of us.
As spring approaches we celebrate the anticipated opening of our community garden space. The opportunity this space provides to safely socialize while engaging in re-energizing garden activities that rejuvenate the body and soul is one of the accomplishments we are most excited about. Our edible forest team continues to lovingly care for our young orchard trees and they are flourishing. The Indigenous community continues to plan and nurture the Medicine Wheel Garden and use The Local’s virtual platform to come together for a Talking Circle once a week.
We don’t know when the pandemic and the ever changing restrictions will end. What we do know, here at The Local, is that we will continue to serve the community with your safety at the forefront, and that may mean further adjustments to how we deliver the services we offer. We ask for your patience. These decisions are never easy, but keeping everyone safe is paramount, and it is this consideration that will inform us as we move forward.
Your support is key, and if you are able to donate, no matter how large or small, please consider doing so through our website at www.thelocalcfc.org