Janille, Kamloops

Janille is the kind of person who likes to get creative. The 68-year-old sews and knows what to do with the limited offerings on the discount shelf at her local Kamloops grocery store. She’s also a thrift shop veteran and recently converted two old ski poles into walking sticks by removing the plastic basket, sawing them down and adding rubber tips (all thrifted, of course).
 
Still, she explains, “A few months ago, the very thought of going for a long walk tired me out. It’s partly physical stuff but I’ve also had a lot of trauma dealing with some abusive situations. I isolated myself.”

Recently, however, things have taken a turn for the better. The reason for the transformation, she says, is the healthy food she’s now able to afford thanks to farmer’s market coupons she picks up at the Mount Paul Community Food Centre on Kamloops’ North Shore. The provincial program aimed at low-income seniors and families provides $21 food vouchers each week that can be redeemed at participating markets.

Janille and other seniors drop in at the new Mount Paul CFC—where 60% of participants are over 60 years old—to receive the coupons, and staff use it as an opportunity to connect, offering snacks, fresh juice and a chance to sit and chat, as well as information about other programs offered at the centre.
 
“They encouraged me to join Foodie Fridays [where seniors come together to cook a meal],” Janille says. “But after everything I’ve been through, I had to really think about it,”

She slept poorly for several nights before the first session, but steeled herself and joined last fall. Janille was impressed by the welcoming staff and recently renovated centre where high windows let sunlight flood the open main room. The other participants were friendly, and while chopping, cooking and eating together, they established a spirited camaraderie.

“I’ve really come out of my shell,” Janille says. “I look forward to it now. We have fun and joke around. I feel safe there. And my health has improved so much. I’m sleeping better, I have more energy. I used to go to the doctor every week, but I haven’t seen him in three weeks!

“It sounds dramatic, but this place and the food has literally changed my life.”

Janille’s goal this summer is to use those walking sticks to make it from her seniors’ residence all the way to Eighth Street and back—about a half hour walk each way. “I used to stay close to my nest, she says. “But now I’m soaring like the eagles!”