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Food box program helps most vulnerable

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Community Care Durham (CCD) is stepping up and has been helping the community with their groceries through the “Community to Table” Food Box program.

In response to the public health crisis, CCD has partnered with local businesses to offer a weekly food box which contains the essentials – most of which are locally made or grown.

The foodbox will contain items such as milk, Danone yogurt, eggs, vegetables, apples, apple juice, bread, tomato sauce, pasta, baked goods, toilet paper, and facial tissues.

The contents may very depending on what’s available.

This week, partners included Durham College, Link Greenhouses, and others. Delivery is free, and every week, while the boxes are $30.

Speaking with The Oshawa Express CCD CEO James Meloche explained the organization came up with the idea because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were looking for ways to assist those in need during these trying times.

He explains CCD is a non-profit organization, and has been doing similar projects around the region for 40 years, with locations across Durham.

“One of our flagship programs we’ve been doing for decades now is our “Meals on Wheels” program, and that’s a volunteer supporter program where we package hot meals and frozen meals and deliver them to people who otherwise would not be able to cook for themselves, or are unable to access food.”

Last year CCD delivered more than 110,000 meals to residents across Durham through the Meals on Wheels program.

“The big thing is, it’s volunteers who do most of our deliveries,” says Meloche.

So, when COVID-19 hit Oshawa, Meloche explains CCD offers a number of programs, some of which are day programs, telephone reassurance calls, and more, and with the public health measures in place, the organization realized not all of the programs could continue for the time being.

“One of the things we realized we needed to do was enhance our meal support program, considering the anticipation that people would be unavailable or able to access food,” he says.

The organization then began getting calls from some clients asking if they could get help with groceries, which is something CCD already did for seniors.

“After looking at the logistics of that, we realized it was very difficult to do and to ensure the safety of the client, our staff, and so on,” he says, adding grocery stores are in a bit of a unique situation right now, as they are promoting social distancing in their stores.

After considering the alternatives, the community food box idea popped up.

“We started with the idea that we could provide to seniors some basic necessities for their kitchen,” says Meloche. “Bread, milk, eggs, some fruit and vegetables [and more].”

Meloche notes he bikes around Durham a lot, and has seen a lot of local shops closing during the pandemic.

“I spoke to a local bakery and I asked them, ‘Would it be possible for you to bake some pies for our community box?’” he explains. “They came out and said we could purchase items from them that could help them run their business while we feed people who need us.”

They then began engaging with local farmers, who began to provide CCD with fresh hydroponic vegetables.

“We’re now growing our partnerships to people who are either willing to donate, or allow us to purchase items from them that allows us to put together a box for people,” he says.

Now, while CCD does usually help seniors, age is no longer a requirement, and if it comes down to simply being able to afford groceries at the moment, the organization is willing to help.

“We’re looking for people who are unable to get out of the house, unable to purchase their own food, and who obviously can cook because we’re giving them ingredients to cook with,” says Meloche.

With the program now launching across Durham Region, volunteers and staff are taking the precaution of dropping the packages at the door, as opposed to going inside, after being screened every single day.

“There will be clients that I expect who have difficulty with mobility, and as long as we’ve talked to them and screened them and they were healthy, and they were willing to let us in, we’ll open the door and put it on their kitchen table,” says Meloche, adding they are very cautious before they do so.

To volunteer or to find out about the new Food Box Program, call 1-888-255-6680, and pay by credit card or pre-authorized payment.