Sharing Food and Laughter with Vancouver ecoVillage
Laughter heals all wounds, and that's one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you're going through,
it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing. ~ Kevin Hart
Our Community Food Program brings disabled, low-income seniors and friendly neighbours together around delicious, affordable organic food while positively impacting their physical and psychological health and well-being.
We create highly social celebrations for disabled seniors living alone and unable to leave their residence by inviting friendly neighbours of all ages to participate in shopping, cooking, sharing healthy food and enjoying lively company. Our goal is to try out as many seasonal recipes bursting with the vibrant flavors of farm-fresh ingredients.
The ultimate scope of these bi-weekly lunches is as much to prevent social isolation as to address proper nutrition in combating diet-related chronic disease and health disparities from obesity, HBP and diabetes to loss of appetite, depression, loneliness, lack of energy and medication side effects.
Now you may think that it’s too late for someone in their 80s or suffering from acute illness to change their eating habits and make a meaningful difference in their health, but as our bodies face some of the challenges associated with aging, food becomes one of our greatest allies.
Sadly, many seniors fall into poor eating habits, particularly those living alone. Cooking can be challenging, so they may decide “why bother?” In addition, mobility issues can make preparing meals more difficult. For some, safety concerns like fear of falling hinder their ability to cook. And for others, their appetite may dwindle due to illness or medications.
Our Community Food Program seeks to overcome some of the obstacles to eating right that many low-income seniors face by:
1. Providing Companionship by combining social activities with meal times. We invite friends and neighbours to join us in potluck style lunches. Eating with others makes mealtimes more enjoyable and often improves appetite. We all eat a full, balanced meal instead of snacking.
2. Cooking with Others when it is difficult to prepare meals alone. Asking for help with cooking can be daunting, so this is the perfect opportunity to get support, make new friends and share a meal along with some conversation.
3. Getting Shopping Done when physical handicaps restrict movement and prevent regular outtings. Shopping for food can become a significant hurdle without family members or volunteers to help, so we give our seniors a helping hand by shopping with them or for them.
4. Setting a Dependable Routine for not eating alone. Eating in a dining room with others twice a week provides a healthy routine that all can look forward to and count on.
5. Giving Something to Look Foward to each week. The lives of many low-income seniors have little variety and few distractions, therefore, each outside contact assumes larger than usual proportions and importance. What may be a minor part of our week, may be the single event that an elderly person has been waiting for days.
6. Helping to Increase Appetite despite declining health. Many seniors experience loss of appetite because of health problems. Certain medications reduce appetite and even change the taste of some foods. The metabolism slows as we age and so does our activity level, so appetite may naturally decrease. Helping our seniors to eat more regularly with delicious and nutrious food is certainly more appetizing and stimulating.
7. Experimenting with different flavors, types of foods, seasonings, and spices. "Hot and spicy" food may irritate the stomach and too much salt can lead to hypertension or make high blood pressure worse. So, we use spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika, along with organic herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme, grown in our own gardens, which increase food flavors significantly.
8. Eating balanced meals that include lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables first. We make sure our seniors are eating right by not substituting sweets for healthy foods. We help them reduce sugar cravings by eating right first, and then sharing a small serving of ice cream, a cookie, or slice of pie.
9. Increasing Water and Fibre in their diet. A senior especially has to increase their amount of fiber and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation which tends to happen as we age and is often a side effect to medication. With increased fiber intake, it is necessary to consume more water. Also, many seniors aren’t naturally thirsty and can easily become dehydrated, so drinking water at regular times throughout the day is important. Especially for those who are underweight or having trouble eating balanced meals, we help them increase the amount of liquid and fibre in their diet. For example, we frequently prepare a vitamin-and-mineral-rich salads and soups with whole grains, beans, deep green lettuce or spinach, kale, tomatoes, carrots, fruit and nuts dressed with lime and olive oil. We also encourage drinking water to replace high-sugar fruit drinks or soda-pop which cannot be taken by diabetics.
10. Sharing Food and Laughter provides an escape from worries of health, finances and mental well-being. For our seniors, eating problems are often related to depression or a lack of activity and social interaction that isolates them from others.