A Call for Guidance: Helping People at Risk

By April 12, 2020 Fresh Ideas

A wise business leader said: ‘In this time, if you are not in the business of helping people, close your doors and go volunteer for a person whose business is helping people.’  

Segment One:  Seniors At Risk

When the immediate impacts of the economic down-turn started to become apparent in our business, at the same-time as the self-isolation began, we shifted our focus to helping seniors have access to hot, healthy lunches by taking on the meal-service provided by Victorian Order of Nurses (Meals on Wheels), as the hospital-kitchen would no-longer provide the meals.  Apparently the VON subsidizes the cost of the meals and their customers pay the bulk of the cost.  

Upon further thought we expanded the meal-service to include anyone who wanted to have hot-lunches delivered for $7.20/day ($36/week).  This price is essentially our ‘cost’, as we use the same quality of food, fresh-cooked on our site, curated by the VON program.  The purpose of providing these easy, hot, healthy meals is to help people in the high-risk age category stay safe at home, and have restaurant-level food provided to them safely in their home.  It is essentially keeping people protected and food-secure when they should not be venturing out for groceries.

In many cases the initial clients were people who returned from travel outside the country who needed to self-isolate.  The citizens of this town stepped-up and we have thirty, or so, private customers getting the meals delivered every day, one week at a time, by volunteers.  As the program evolved and showed some success, we’ve had many other citizens step-up to volunteer, or step-up to pay for another person’s meals. Again, there is so much kindness and generosity going around…

Segment Two:  Youth At-Risk

As March-break came to an end for students we saw that another segment of the population was in serious need.  Many, many children rely upon in-school meal programs to have something to eat each day.  Their families do not have the resources, or potentially the priority to feed them.  In seeking-out the mechanisms to identify and feed the ‘youth-at-risk’, we contacted Maggie’s place (Family Resource Centre) as they would be able to identify clients who are in need and are proactively working to improve their family-situation.  

When we went back to the community to seek funding to feed thirteen individuals (Identified and Delivered by Maggie’s place), we were overwhelmed by a huge response.  We ended up with funding for the first week ($468) [$7.20 x 5 days x 13 people] from several private individuals and additional funding for several individuals the following week.  Many People stepped forward with funding for a person for a week or even a month.  This is so kind and generous.        

In taking a step-back from the problem we realized this food insecurity (for youth, in particular) was being partially addressed through daycare, school-programs, and after-school programs during the school-year.  The same issue is partially addressed during summer through day-camps, park-programs…etc.  

Recognizing we are likely to be dealing with this situation for some time, we appealed to the business community to support ‘a week at a time’ because $36/week for a person has a big impact on an individual’s finances, where $468 (13 People for a week) every 6 months will not touch the bottom-line of a manufacturing facility.  And THEY stepped forward.  We have had a couple businesses confirm, informally, and there are rumours of groups (such as teachers) pooling funds to pay for a week of this program.  We’re calling it ‘Maggie’s Meals’, and we would like to request funds (even matched funds) from businesses, rather than individuals.

Example businesses:  Large Manufacturers, Car Dealerships, Current ‘Charities’ (e.g. Rotary Club), Large Retail Outlets (Canadian Tire)…etc But, we want to do this ‘right’ and in an organized way. Apparently United way is curating funds from a 9-million dollar federal program aimed at helping seniors during Covid-19?

Guidance Request:

As a new small-business owner, I am already trying to navigate a new landscape in running a small business.  On top of that, the landscape has changed dramatically over the past few weeks.  We are in need some guidance toward the best ways to address food insecurity for these two vulnerable populations during Covid-19 isolation-measures.  Both of our target populations are particularly marginalized and we are seeking guidance to help us proceed using larger mechanisms that may exist without us knowing.  

For example, are there funding sources that may be able to help one, or both of these population segments?  Should we somehow request funds (from ’somewhere’ – I don’t know where) in order to offset the cost (To Maggie’s Place) to deliver food, coordinate funding of the program, create and process applications for assistance?  Is there a way we can access purchasing power (volume) and storage for packaging and food-items?  We are currently not in a position to purchase in advance due to cash-flow availability, so we are paying full-retail price for all of our supplies.  Should we be working directly through the ‘Food Bank’?  

We’re not sure how to proceed and it seems we’re way out of our league.
Thank you very much for taking the time to review this request.  Please don’t hesitate to call (after 1:30 P.M.) for a follow-up (902 397 4868).  We are all in this together.  Our community is rallying around these two vulnerable populations and we want to be as effective as possible at addressing their needs to stay at home, and be healthy… Any advice?

Dan Corbett

Author Dan Corbett

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