Darlene, 41, never expected she’d have to rely on the kindness of others for food or be forced to give up healthy choices. When her life became increasingly difficult, she called The Salvation Army for assistance. Today she is stronger, smarter and more resilient than ever.
“It’s been a painful and scary couple of years,” says Darlene. “Injuries from a serious car accident forced me to leave my job as a nanny. My boyfriend became disengaged when he learned I was pregnant and both of my parents are battling Alzheimer’s disease.”
Darlene’s unexpected job loss left her struggling to afford to eat. At The Salvation Army’s food bank in Cedarbrae, Ont., she didn’t get a hand out, but a hand up. She was encouraged to choose her own food from the pantry, had a safe place to share her emotions and was introduced to the community kitchen where she is making new friends, eating healthy food and learning creative recipes that fit with her low-income budget.
“The Salvation Army helped reduce my stress,” says Darlene. “Before I came to the cooking class I avoided certain foods because I didn’t know how to prepare them. The course gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivates me to eat healthy, which helps my diabetes and pregnancy. Coming to the class is more than about a recipe. It brightens my day and makes me feel better.”
Classes cover topics such as meal planning, basic nutrition and how to prepare, healthy, cost-effective foods. Following the lesson, clients are given the opportunity to prepare and eat the food.
“We don’t say ‘we’ll make a healthy meal for you,’” says Tara Hart, class instructor. “We teach people the skills to do it themselves. Empowering them puts them on the path to success.”
“On my own I’m not very strong,” says Darlene. “But with The Salvation Army I’m stronger. I’m dealing with things that come my way—one day at a time.”