United Way Bruce Grey’s (UWBG) Senior’s Hamper program ensures that all seniors who need food get the help they need. They’ve pulled the community together to make it happen.

“Every person in our region has been impacted, if not by the virus itself, then by the need to self-isolate and physical distance,” says Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director, UWBG.  “We’ve been faced with a challenge to find innovative ways to help all of our community, and most importantly our seniors.”

UWBG consulted with Home and Community Support Services Grey Bruce, VON Grey Bruce and the Society. Based on data and dealings with seniors, the committee decided that large food hampers for seniors living in rural locations would be the best support needed at this time.

food humpers UW Bruce Grey crop

Rural Food Deserts

Many seniors are facing rural food deserts – rural locations that don’t have a grocery store other than a small convenience store – making their ability access to food difficult during the best of times. Today, this issue is magnified into an even bigger issue for seniors living in vulnerable circumstances.

The local Habitat for Humanity contacted UWBG in mid-March, just as the effects of the pandemic were beginning to hit home in our the region and their ReStores were shuttered. Their message was, “we have four trucks. Tell us how we can help.”

Like everywhere else, purchasing limits in grocery stores were in effect, and it made no sense to send multiple volunteers on numerous shopping expeditions. Through a major donor relationship, UWBG connected to grocery wholesaler, Zehrs for food and supplies, and arranged for Habitat for Humanity to take the on themanage delivery.

Having Ensuring good nutritious food for seniors was also a priority for this team. “One of our team members took the time to do the research on appropriate nutrition for seniors,” says Francesca, “He read the labels to ensure that we were not giving them hampers of food high in sodium or with empty calories.”

Finding a space to assemble the hampers was another challenge that needed out of-the-box thinking. UWBG approached a retail outlet in the Heritage Place Mall, which had just two stores open for essential services and, the rest was empty space. The groceries were delivered directly to the mMall.

“It was the perfect space,” says Francesca.  “Zehrs even added some shopping carts to the grocery shipment to use as we loaded the hampers. It made packing and unpacking a lot faster and easier and they also came in handy as measurements for physical distancing.”

Bulk Order of Toilet Paper

When the food was delivered, UWBG and the rest of the community got to work. In three days, from 9 am to 5 pm, the UWBG team, bolstered by many community volunteers, loaded the hampers,  for seniors. When full, each hamper was valued at about $170 each. “We were even able to work through one of our community partners, Bruce Hydro, to purchase 13K rolls of toilet paper.”

The team also provided food hampers for 315 for families with children and youth. In total, in just three days working from 9 to 5 UWBG’s team and volunteers stuffed 1,875 grocery bags for seniors and families living in vulnerable conditions.

During the pandemic this was a community project that helped people living in precarious situations. It pulled the community together too.  Whenever UWBG asked for help the community responded with … just tell us what you need.

Who helped?

  • Zehrs Owen Sound
  • Grey County Housing
  • CMHA Grey Bruce
  • Heritage Place Mall
  • Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce
  • The Do volunteers
  • Bayshore Home Health
  • Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce
  • Pearle Vision
  • Savesight Vision Centre
  • Chartwell Retirement Residences
  • Sprung Transportation –
  • 211 Ontario – postcard design