It was a smoothie that changed everything for Marilyn. She’s never been a big breakfast person. Plus, diabetes put certain foods off limits for her. And severe anxiety, depression and PTSD from years of spousal abuse have made it hard to get out of her PJs some days. But taking part in The Table Community Food Centre’s FoodFit program, the 50-year-old mom from Smiths Falls discovered a spinach smoothie that rocked her world.
“I’ve finished the program but I still make up that smoothie with spinach, strawberries, half a banana and a bit of milk every day. It’s worked wonders for me to just have a good breakfast. I’m losing weight, doing less grazing, my blood sugars are well under control and I feel 100 times better. I have my smoothie and I can get out the door, take the dog for a walk. I can take on the day.”
In fact, Marilyn liked the food, recipes and camaraderie of FoodFit so much that she started volunteering in the program once her 12-week session was over. She makes the half hour drive from Smiths Falls to The Table in Perth every Thursday, helps set up food and materials, washes dishes and listens in on the weekly talks about healthy eating and exercise.
She’s also joined The Table’s Community Action Network and has become a powerful advocate for herself and the other low-income residents in her social housing complex. Network participants attend regular meetings, invite speakers in to talk about the issues that matter to them, like housing, social assistance and food insecurity. Marilyn does advocacy training on Monday nights, as well, and is learning a step-by step-approach to take on any problem. Already, she and her neighbours have successfully lobbied to have the speed bumps in their neighbourhood painted, Children Playing signs replaced and they’re working on getting a speed limit and No Parking signs posted.
“Getting involved has reminded me that I’ve got a voice and I can make that voice count. My opinion matters,”  she says.
After years of living with an abusive partner, it feels great to stand up for herself—and others.
Recently, Marilyn contacted her local social housing agency regarding new heating units monopolizing the storage in her home and others. She’d already been in touch with the head of the agency when she first started speaking out about housing and it wasn’t long before the lead maintenance guy in her complex paid her a visit. She steeled herself for confrontation, but Marilyn was pleasantly surprised by his helpful attitude. The two of them discussed the issue, and came up with a solution that works for everyone.

That smoothie may have got Marilyn started, but a growing sense of her own potential keeps her moving forward. “Before I started doing training at The Table, I was terrified to speak out,” she says. “But now I don’t let people walk all over me. My backbone grew.”