Multi-Service Centre receives food security grant

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Local food insecurity is being addressed for seniors and adults with disabilities in the area through a $33,000 grant to the Tillsonburg and District Multi-Service Centre from the Ontario Community Support Association.

The funds will be used to support access to adequate food sources through local grocery store gift cards and passes for accessible transportation to local grocery stores, in partnership with Tillsonburg Helping Hand Food Bank, the Tillsonburg Ministerial Association, Tillsonburg Senior Centre, T:GO Transportation, which provides local and inter-community transit, and Ride Norfolk.

“With limited resources, contacts and adherence to COVID government directives, many seniors are isolated, experiencing financial hardship and have limited opportunity for social interactions within their community,” said Diana Handsaeme, MSC Director of Home Support Services.

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“With the OSCA grant, we have been able to collaborate with our community partners in support of our seniors. And this is just one opportunity, so I’m really excited about it. We’re very grateful for the support of the Ontario Community Support Association.”

“The Multi-Service Centre was able to apply for a grant from our provincial association (OCSA),” said Kathryn Leatherland, Executive Director of the Multi-Service Centre, noting that only Meals on Wheels providers were eligible to apply. “So we wanted to do that, and then work with our partners to distribute them.”

Funds will be used to subsidize the MSC Meals on Wheels program (519-842-9008 ext 357 for more information).

“Our hot meal and frozen meal program will have a subsidy of half price until the end of December,” said Handsaeme. “It’s an opportunity for families to try it.”

Funds will also be used to subsidize client fees for MSC’s Grocery Buddies, a new program started during the pandemic which has MSC transportation volunteers pick up and deliver groceries for seniors.

“Beyond that, we knew that we could partner together with some other groups here in the area to reach more seniors and more adults with disabilities,” said Leatherland. “So we are partnering with T:GO to share some of the funds to purchase bus passes, so that persons can use the service to get to a grocery store. We’re also partnering with the Helping Hand Food Bank in providing grocery gift cards to them.”

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“Anything we can do to help people get to grocery stores and shopping is always a good thing,” said Tillsonburg Councillor Pete Luciani.

Handsaeme noted there are isolated seniors and adults with disabilities in the area between Tillsonburg, Langton, Port Rowan, Delhi and other rural areas, that access services such as medical appointments and businesses in the Tillsonburg area.

“It is an opportunity to support those isolated seniors (55-plus) and adults with disabilities in providing needed transportation to meet nutritional, medical and social needs,” said Handsaeme.

An inter-community bus route connects T:GO to Ride Norfolk, Norfolk County’s municipal transit system, Leatherland noted. In this way, seniors and adults with a disability can travel from Tillsonburg into Norfolk and vice-versa to access food and grocery stores.

The MSC provides service in the west portion of Norfolk County in the Courtland, Langton, Walsingham and Port Rowan areas.

To inquire about the free bus passes made available through the food security grant, contact T:GO (Tillsonburg and Bayham areas) at 519-688-3009 ext. 4470 or Ride Norfolk 519-428-3178.

“I think one of our goals is always to look at ways that we can improve seniors’ access to supports and services,” said Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp, noting inter-community transit is a unique service available to rural communities. “Being able to provide alternative transportation is going to help us achieve that goal. It’s a great day for the community.”

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“I think it reinforces the value of community partnership, and it’s at the root of connectivity of which both local and regional transportation is all about – being able to get from A to B and back home safely, providing equitable and sustainable service,” said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar, who recognized and thanked the leadership of the Multi-Service Centre for identifying transits – local and regional T:GO Transportation – as a partner.

“I think this community understood the ultimate need for local and regional transportation,” said Molnar. “We’re extremely fortunate to have good regional partners at the MTO office. Minister (Caroline) Mulroney continues to be a great supporter of our local system – the fact that one size does not fit all – and we look forward to the day where she’s riding the system.”

cabbott@postmedia.com