A seniors meal program in Sexsmith has seen demand for services double since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sexsmith Wellness Coordinator Melody Sample says soup kitchens and community kitchens could stay open throughout the pandemic, adding the Seniors Community Kitchen grew significantly during the multiple lockdowns.

“We more than doubled last year with the number of meals we were making,” she says.

Sample started the Seniors Community Kitchen in 2017 after some conversations with some of the seniors in Sexsmith. She says one of the overarching issues seniors in the community were facing was that there was no Meals on Wheels program that delivers to Sexsmith.

“Being distanced from the city, and we don’t have much for transportation between here and there.”

Sample says two times a week, nine volunteers make roughly 70 healthy, homemade meals to deliver to seniors in Sexsmith. She says with the meals delivered for free, seniors look at the meals as a gift from the volunteers.

“Often we have enough food for close to two meals that they didn’t have to cook for themselves… and they took that as a gift.”

Sample says hearing the positive feedback the meal program has had on seniors has been heartwarming. Although many of them can make good food themselves, this has been a small act of service they look forward to and appreciate.

“During the hardest months of COVID, this was a bright spot for them, it was someone who showed that they cared about them, and delivering a meal to them. It’s a great program that the town supports. It’s really important; we want to honour our seniors and this is a small way we can do that.”

Sample says they received grant funding from Family and Community Support Services Alberta and Second Harvest during the pandemic which allowed them to offer the meals for free to the seniors. She says they received additional grant funding from Second Harvest this year to offer the meals free again in 2021.