THUNDER BAY -- People living in a shelter or transitional housing like the John Howard Society don’t have access to a kitchen.
“You live in very deep poverty. You don’t have access to a healthy budget to help you make healthy food choices,” said Liisa Leskowski, executive director of the John Howard Society of Thunder Bay.
But through a Healthy Communities Fund grant from the province, the John Howard Society has created the Healthy Life Style program, which aims to improve access to healthy food through a community kitchen and educational workshops.
“This is an opportunity for our residents to learn how to cook and how to have a community kitchen, to learn some life skills around healthy eating, making healthy choices,” Leskowski said.
Normally, John Howard offers a breakfast daily and then the residents provide their own lunch and dinner or eat at Shelter House.
Through this $28,000 grant, the organization is now offering a bagged lunch and a sit-down or takeout dinner through the duration of the program.
In addition to the meal program, there will also be workshops on topics like nutrition, budgeting, mental health, physical health and self-esteem. And residents who participate in the program will also receive gym passes for some neighbourhood fitness centres.
Residential services manager Colleen Peters said they have partnered with the Regional Food Distribution Association, who stocks their on-site food bank, and they can now increase the amount of fresh food they have access to.
“We’re only using resources that are realistic to our client base, so after the funding ends, hopefully there will be an increased awareness of the resources for food in the community,” she said.
“Individuals will be able, on a low income, hopefully maximize what they have as resources.”
If residents aren’t able to carry on with the gym membership, Peters said they will have at least developed skills they can do within their home or outside.
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