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How has COVID-19 Impacted your Work?

August 27, 2020

Author: Marissa Lustri, MPH, RD, Program Assistant at Nutrition Connections

Welcome to our second blog post of the series ‘How has COVID-19 Impacted your Work?’. This week we will be featuring two Ontario based registered dietitians (RD) practicing in Community Health Centres (CHC) during the pandemic. For this blog post, I had the pleasure of speaking with RD Krystyna Lewicki from the Four Villages CHC (4VCHC) and RD Adam Hudson from CHC of Northumberland.

Like most other RDs, at the start of the pandemic Krystyna and Adam transitioned their nutrition counselling from in-person to phone and virtual appointments in order to comply with public health guidelines. In addition to continuing with their scheduled appointments, both RDs looked for additional ways to support their communities during this difficult time.

As many of you know food access was, and still is, at the forefront of people’s minds as many Ontarians lost their source of income due to closures caused by the pandemic. Both Krystyna and Adam set out to help their community’s through various food security initiatives, which they were able to execute in part due to funding from the Community Food Centres of Canada (CFCC).

What’s happening at 4VCHC?

When speaking with Krystyna about how COVID-19 has impacted her work, she identified that food insecurity began rising due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, directly related to sudden job loss. Krystyna’s interest in food insecurity, and experience writing grant proposals allowed her to successfully secure funding to help with food insecurity initiatives in between client consultations. Krystyna submitted two proposals to the CFCC, which allowed 4VCHC to provide approximately 280 families (households with greater than 2 people) with a $100 grocery gift card, and 382 families (households of 2 people or less) with a $50 grocery gift card.

Another successful funding opportunity came from the Breakfast Clubs of Canada. With this money, 4VCHC pivoted their previous food insecurity initiative which provided coupons to clients that they could redeem at the Junction Farmers Market (JFM) in the West end of Toronto. However, due to the pandemic farmers were no longer able to physically sell their produce to the public. The team decided that with this money they would continue to work with JFM and pivot their distribution method to a grab and go model, where 80 families with children would be provided baskets comprised of fresh vegetables, fruits and eggs which they were able to pick-up at pre-set times on Saturday mornings. This synergistic relationship was a win-win as this helped families with children increase their vegetable and fruit intake, in addition to helping Ontario farmers.

4VCHC previously ran numerous food and nutrition workshops for their clients. However, in order to be compliant with the public health guidelines, the RDs at 4VCHC transitioned from their in-person group education sessions to virtual nutrition programing. Clients learned from a team of 4 RDs about eating well during COVID-19, including general menu planning, mindful eating, how to eat healthy on a budget, and food safety.

What’s happening at CHC of Northumberland?

Last week I had the opportunity to learn about a few food insecurity initiatives Adam and his team at the CHC of Northumberland have implemented since the start of COVID-19. With the funding from CFCC, Adam and his team were able to provide their community with over 80 homemade meals and 60 food boxes per week for those in need since March.

The team at CHC of Northumberland had food security programming in place prior to COVID-19 which they were committed to continuing. With the funding from CFCC, the team was able to put more fresh produce into the food boxes and began adding homemade meals. Adam leveraged his culinary education and nutrition expertise to guide his team in providing delicious and nutritious, large quantity meals for their community.

The addition of homemade meals to the centre’s weekly food boxes was due to the success of their work previously providing community members experiencing homelessness in Cobourg with a weekly meal. The team came together to cook and prepare homemade meals every Wednesday for residents. “It has been an amazing project to be a part of and as an RD it has been very rewarding to be able to use my culinary, planning and budgeting skills to feed people in the community” says Adam. There has been so much positive feedback from those at the shelter receiving the meals, that CHC of Northumberland and the local shelter have created a partnership to support each other for the rest of the calendar year.

Thank you!

These are two dynamic examples of our Nutrition Connections community members doing amazing work during the pandemic and going above and beyond. Thank you Krystyna, Adam, and the rest of our community for supporting Canadians with food access during this challenging time.