HAWKESBURY — A collaborative project is underway across Prescott and Russell to prepare and distribute more than 10,000 meals for distribution through several regional food banks. The goal is to share nourishing, comforting and convenient meals with those experiencing high levels of financial stress or isolation and who may not often be able to enjoy a quality, chef-prepared meal.
This project is an expansion of a model that began in 2020 by the Rotary Club of Hawkesbury. The meals are professionally prepared and frozen by three local caterers in the region—Vankleek Hill’s A Catered Affair, Groupe Convex in Hawkesbury, and Académie du gourmet in Embrun. Prescott and Russell Community Services, in turn, transport the frozen meals to food bank partners who have signed on as distribution points.
“I barely made it through the first shut down… During the holidays, I was so desperate I reached out to United Way to see if there was any help for me. She set up a connection with the Rotary Club and I was put on their meal delivery list. Interacting with these kind people has opened up doors for me. My son sees the light in my eyes that was extinguished and I find with his stomach full, he is less aggravated. I am very thankful,” said a satisfied diner.
The positive outcomes of the project go well-beyond the care and comfort of a shared meal, the work to prepare the meals contributes to regional economic recovery efforts. Prescott and Russell’s economic recovery plan indicates that the restaurant and hospitality sectors are among the hardest hit in our region. For Groupe Convex, a social enterprise that hires adults with disabilities, the preparation of these meals enables several employees to return to work.
It is estimated that one in seven Ontario families are in a situation of food insecurity and that only one in five food-insecure households access food banks for help. These challenges are even greater during the pandemic, with many people having to turn to food aid for the first time.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, as part of a larger poverty awareness campaign, warns that without good food, our communities suffer in lost potential and additional burdens on our healthcare system.
“The impact of food insecurity on the physical and mental health & well-being of our community is very concerning. Children and adults living in households where there is not enough money for food are more likely to develop or suffer from conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety,” said Lynne Giroux, Health Promotion Specialist from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.