The global public health emergency is having widespread effects on many aspects of day-to-day life, from finances to food security and mental health. Here are some local and provincial resources that can help provide access to food and mental well-being services for individuals and families, young and old.
The global public health emergency that is COVID-19 has upturned so much of daily life across the planet. Many individuals and businesses have been managing the change at lightning speed, adapting to virtual interactions and moving their professional and personal lives into online interactions where possible. Some have had a more challenging time, however, due to these unforeseen circumstances and the various and multiple changes in the rules and regulations they need to follow. This has resulted in unexpected layoffs, impacting individuals and families and forcing many small businesses to close their doors for the time being.
While governments of all levels have created resources and financial support systems to help both individuals and businesses stay afloat over the next few months, there may still be cracks in the system, especially for the more vulnerable individuals in our communities. This post focuses on resources to make use of for food security and mental well-being as the potential impacts of this pandemic affect more than just our finances.
The seemingly mundane chore of going to the grocery store has changed over the past month as new policies have been put in place to ensure physical distancing measures. As a result, our usual access to food has had to change too. Between waiting in line to get into the store and searching for what used to be commonplace items to no avail, we’ve all had to make adjustments to how we get our food.
For those that have been especially impacted by the results of the pandemic, whether they’ve lost their source of income or they’ve had to self-isolate due to illness or higher risks associated with becoming sick, the option to go to the grocery store isn’t much of an option at all. Vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those experiencing homelessness also aren’t able to access food the same way they could before COVID-19.
Organizations and businesses around the city have rallied to address the issue of food security, creating or expanding on previously offered services to make sure that everyone has enough healthy food to eat during this crisis. Some of these services are free and can be delivered to people in need, while others are paid services that provide convenience to the customer and income for the business — a great option for those that still have the financial means.
The Food Share Network has created an incredibly comprehensive list of food resources to access throughout the Capital Region. This includes warm meals, frozen meals, pre-packaged hampers, deliveries, and more from local non-profit organizations, food banks, community centres, and even just regular folks cooking meals for others. The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness has a thorough list of meals and food banks and has also dedicated a page to service updates from their providers for the latest information. Victoria’s Cool Aid Society has a section on meals and food banks on their coronavirus pandemic services page as well.
BC Farmers’ Markets were also deemed an essential service early on and have been operating with adjusted procedures to help locals access fresh produce and products. Women in Need has also gathered a list of suppliers of locally produced food from around the greater Victoria area. Some of these suppliers offer paid services like delivery of weekly or monthly boxes of produce and/or fruit. Contact information for the various community gardens around the city are also provided. Victoria’s Food Eco District (FED) has compiled lots of useful information when it comes to accessing local food during COVID-19, including details about how to support partnering restaurants, businesses, and organizations, as well as local grocers, farmers, and markets. Gardening advice and help can be found via FED too, for those interested in learning how to grow their own food.
Some of downtown’s restaurants have also adjusted their offerings to bring food to customers in new ways. 10 Acres Market has recently launched, offering customers groceries, ready-to-eat meals, cook-at-home kits, and more from the 10 Acres farm, available for either pick-up or delivery. The Village has transformed their five locations into the Village Response Unit to facilitate delivery of groceries, cocktail kits, bakery items, and more. Earls Grocery is also expanding the restaurant’s services during the pandemic to also deliver grocery packs, ready-made meals, and cook-at-home chef kits. The Local has created TV dinners for the COVID era, available for pickup. Lots of other restaurants have shifted to take-out, delivery, or curbside pick-up for ready-made meals or take-home meal kits so be sure to check with your favourite local spots if a trip to the grocery store is not an option or is just too overwhelming at the moment.
Mental health services
Mental health can be a struggle even in the best of times, but a global pandemic is certain to fray anyone’s nerves. The sudden changes and restrictions on daily life, combined with the potential added stress of the circumstances, can be catalysts to a mental health crisis. As we strive to stay physically healthy, paying attention to our mental well-being is also very important.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has a list of resources and tips to make use of when it comes to mental well-being during COVID-19. The page includes tips for talking to kids about the pandemic and for coping with its associated anxiety. HealthLinkBC also has a dedicated COVID-19 mental health resources page with support for kids, teens, adults, and seniors. Resources for caregivers and workers can be found there, as can information from the First Nations Health Authority about mental health and cultural support for Indigenous people.
The Kids Help Phone offers support for kids and teens via text, phone, or live chat and also provides resources for local youth programs. The province has also recently launched a service especially for post-secondary students called Here2Talk. The program offers registered post-secondary students 24/7 access to free counselling and community referral services via the app, phone, or website.
Some local health providers are offering telehealth services at this time. For example, the Centre for Counselling & Therapy in downtown Victoria is offering sessions held via phone or computer. McCoy Counselling is also offering telephone and secure video sessions during the pandemic, as are other registered counsellers with practices in the city.
May 4th to 10th is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s designated mental health week this year. Local organization, Care-2-Share, will be hosting live talks, free yoga and meditation sessions, music, and more throughout the week on their Instagram account (@caretwoshare) in support of mental well-being in our community.
Support for seniors
Besides having a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, the distancing measures and isolation that many seniors are currently experiencing can be extra difficult to cope with. Many seniors rely on family visits and other sources of support which have been drastically reduced in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Seniors Advocate BC has created a dedicated program called Safe Seniors, Strong Communities which matches seniors with volunteers in their local community. These volunteers can offer a friendly voice to talk to on the phone or are also available to drop off medication, groceries, or other non-medical essentials directly to the senior’s door.
The program can be especially useful for those that don’t live in the same community as their elderly relative or as an additional source of support, if needed. Registering as a participating senior or volunteer for Safe Seniors, Strong Communities can be done via the bc211.ca website for the technically savvy, or by simply calling 2-1-1 on a phone.
The city of Victoria has gathered a list of neighbourhood resources as well, some of which focus on providing support to seniors in our communities.