When the pandemic rolled into Montreal in the early days of March, ACT decided to work with its local Montreal allies to support older adults in the Montreal community. We set up a grocery delivery project for older adults who were asked by government authorities to remain confined in their homes.
ACT partnered with Stephanie Dupont, a community organizer for the CIUSSS Centre-Ouest, as well as New Hope Seniors’ Centre, a community organization that works with isolated older adults. We launched our project in late March in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood of Montreal, where our Concordia University campus is based.
The local Meals on Wheels program had temporarily shut down because of COVID-19, and the NDG Grocery Response team looked to take over the client list and offer their services to other seniors in need. Creating a partnership with a local grocery store, the team set up a grocery ordering and delivery service that could get food to seniors within three days (sometimes even the same day). Recruiting volunteers from Concordia and from the community, the NDG Grocery Response project launched a phone service which older adults and isolated individuals could call. Callers would leave a message asking either for help with groceries or questions about the service. These messages would be dispatched to our team of volunteers who call back the clients and help them fill out an order.
As the project is now in its third month our client list has become relatively steady. Many of our volunteers have created strong relationships with our callers. While the project’s primary goal was to help food insecurity, combating isolation especially during a pandemic was almost as important. Volunteers were encouraged to have casual conversations with older adults, and many developed positive relationships that, for some, even extended beyond our program.
An important part of the project involved designing tools and promising practices for the implementation of similar projects across communities. A number of initiatives–beyond NDG–have drawn from the tools that were developed as part of this project, and ACT and its community partners have worked with other groups to help them start up their own grocery delivery service.
While the city starts to slowly re-open, the service is not going away anytime soon. Despite stores opening and people going back to work, programs like the local Meals on Wheels are still shut down, and many seniors prefer not venturing to the grocery store.. In fact, the project has brought to light the fact that seniors deal with food insecurity and difficulty accessing grocery store products in our neighbourhood for a number of reasons, not just because of a pandemic and physical distancing measures. With our partners, we are working to see how we can contribute to building lasting measures for a more food secure community.
Here is some early media coverage of the project: