RHODY LIFE

Can O'Peas, please

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The COVID crisis has highlighted an area of continued concern; food insecurity for hundreds of elderly and disabled individuals who are homebound. With the threat of a deadly pandemic, many people are finding themselves isolated from their families. Neighbors, likewise, often chose to stay safe in their homes rather than help someone they do not know who lives next door, living the idiom “it is better to be safe than sorry.”

Katarina Gareau is a Community Health Worker for the Can O’Peas program for Westbay Community Action. Gareau conducted a home visit to do an assessment of an 86-year-old gentleman who is diabetic on a very restrictive diet. His only child lives out of state, and he has two elderly siblings who are also homebound. He cannot get out of his home because he uses a wheelchair and does not have the mobility skills to do so. During the assessment, he tearfully showed Gareau his bare food cabinet that had only one can of peas. This gentleman became the inspiration behind the “Can O’Peas Program,” which addresses food insecurity and isolationism affecting homebound seniors and the individuals with disabilities.

The objective of this program is to keep seniors in their homes safely and provide a sense of independence to promote quality of life and expand access to home and community-based resources, as well as increased access to quality food. Gareau and her colleague Patricia Miller, work with this program, which is in keeping with the mission of Westbay Community Action is to empower and mobilize people through programs, partnerships, and advocacy to gain greater self-sufficiency.

Westbay is one of the few agencies that generates more than 20,000 pounds of fresh produce each year at their own farm. Each month, individuals who are homebound receive monthly food deliveries that include approximately $50 worth of fresh and non-perishable food items, in addition to literature regarding health information, nutrition, meal prep, recipes, and community resources. The recipients look forward to the visit each month with the Community Health Worker Case Managers as it is often their only socialization for the month. In addition, to providing the crucial food and human contact, Gareau and Miller are able to survey the situation to see if there are any unmet needs for referral to other West Bay or community resources.

Currently, the Westbay Community Action “Can O’ Peas” program services more than 100 recipients and continues to grow every day with new referrals from all over Kent county. For more information on this program, or to apply for this valuable service, please contact call 401-921-5142.

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