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Navigating Uncharted Waters in the Pandemic

Richmond Society for Community Living

This story is part of a collaboration with Richmond Society for Community Living (RSCL), Richmond’s largest non-profit social service organization that provides “exceptional programs and services for infants with special needs, children and adults with developmental disabilities. … RSCL also helps family members access programs and services, ensuring quality of care throughout the lifespan of the individual supported.”

Two members of RSCL’s Independent Living program, which supports individuals who have chosen to live in their own communities, share their experiences with accessing food and building virtual community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Langridge & Marni Zimmerman

Heather and Marni eating takeout on a park table

At the beginning of the pandemic, it felt as we were sailing uncharted waters as the novel coronavirus took hold. It was new to us and we had no idea the gravity or future impact this would have on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

COVID-19 has been a toxic issue in mainstream media and well deserving. It has kept us mindful of its repercussions and to be responsible for our well-being and consciousness for the essence of life. Living on our own and away from our families during this pandemic comes with some challenges however, we have managed and are looking forward to being able to have no encumbrances on seeing our family and friends in the future when this is over. We are very proud to say that we have been cooking our essential meals, something we wanted to do since living independently, and at the same time receiving minimal support from our staff. We were very grateful for the help of our staff, Jessica during the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020. We had numerous conversations with her educating and updating us about how to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. One of our main goals was to stay safe and healthy. During the first few weeks when the lockdown was ordered we were supported virtually to prepare and cook the meals that we wanted. Meals like baking lasagna, shepherds pie, casseroles, chili, vegetable soups, butter chicken, etc. It was very educational and interactive for us to keep busy and engage by receiving this virtual support.

Through this virtual support, we also had the capacity to make our grocery lists every week. Jessica did our grocery shopping for a few weeks at Costco, Superstore, Price Mart, Fresh Co., Langley Farms and delivered them to us since it was not safe for us to be in the community as we are vulnerable to the virus. Then, later we were able to go out to do our grocery shopping ensuring that we were wearing our masks, washing our hands, practicing social distancing, and disinfecting dry goods using wipes before putting them in our shopping bags. It was a relief for us to be out in the community, although we made sure that we were safe and comfortable, under the guidance of our staff. Doing our grocery lists every week was a great activity for us. It gave us a sense of responsibility and accomplishment by managing our money and independence. Also, it was a great practice for us to balance our lives to have healthy food choices and what to buy and cook. We were encouraged to decide what’s best and we always asked opinion if needed for pricing and smart buying tactics, as we wanted to save and be money-wise, as we had not been working for few months.

We were so happy as social media helped us through to navigate connecting with staff, family, and friends using Face time, Zoom, and Messenger. These were the tools or our lifeline to connect with staff to support us in our daily living activities respectively. We were able to make plans for our weekly meals, budgeting, and activities that we wanted to do to keep us busy and healthy. We had fun doing virtual supports and through this, it has been essential in helping us to get through each day for our mental health well-being.

As per the government Health Order Dr. Henry released the Health Order staying within your household members. We were supported to cook meals with other RSCL programs following the RSCL protocol for the core bubble and restrictions for the capacity of people in our apartment to keep us safe from COVID-19. It has been a successful activity outside our apartment to cook meals of our choice. A few weeks later we were so happy that our staff could support us back in our apartment following the guidelines implemented by Dr. Henry.

It was also a relief for us to be in the community when it was opened to have dined in at the restaurants, food court, and small gatherings within your core bubble. We met our parents and friends to have dinners and lunches practicing social distancing and having separate tables within our household or core bubble. Our parents had visited us outside our apartment and took us out to have meals at the restaurants. It was a wonderful feeling to see our parents and spend time with them. They also brought us some home-cooked meals and meeting them in the lobby of our building as we continued to practice all restrictions to stay safe and healthy.

Since January, we were also given a free ration of food from the Richmond Food Security Society (RFSS) every Wednesday. We are very grateful to receive healthy meals like pasta, curry, burritos, etc. that help us to know that we have extra food every week to eat. This was a very beneficial and insightful program, which we appreciated very much.

By doing all the precautions we felt safe and comfortable in our daily living for weeks. We admit there were times that we were traumatized and stigmatized through the pandemic as watching the news many people were dying because of the virus. Though, we did not allow this pandemic to perpetuate and have a negative impact on our lives. We always had conversations with staff and joined friends and zoom meetings to share our thoughts and feelings. This feeling of community was perhaps the most precious tool in our resources toolbox. Thank you to the staff for helping us find a direction in this time of need.

We believe that with this pandemic we were able to live to the fullest with the outpouring support of our staff from day one, especially pertaining to our food requirements and nutrients that kept us strong and healthy. We never felt unsafe as we had a continuous conversation on updates and reviewing all pre-cautions and protocols from our staff about COVID-19. With this pandemic, resiliency and resurgence were our tools to fight this battle that the world is facing. We cannot wait for this pandemic to be over so we can have a normal life. Lastly, stay safe and healthy.

What is you/your family’s migration story?
Our parents were born and raised in Canada.

What does food mean to you? What is the connection between food and
identity for you?

To keep us healthy and to live longer.

How do you normally help out at home when preparing for meals?
We help do the grocery shopping and cook food that we want with a focus on healthy choices.

How would you describe your diet? What is a healthy diet to you?
We enjoy food and eating balance diet like salad, less carbs and not greasy food are healthy food.

How has the pandemic impacted the way you eat and access food (e.g., group meals, restaurants, home cooking, grocery stores, gardening)? Did you try anything new because of the pandemic?
We were supported virtually and one on one, so we were lucky that we were not traumatized and stigmatized do to the pandemic.

What are some of your favourite restaurants in Richmond? Why are they
your favourite?

White Spot, Pho Hoa, Ebisu, Cactus club, Pajos and Sockeye Grill. We feel safe and comfortable. They have great choices of food that we like.

Reflecting on 2020, what are some memorable food moments from the pandemic for you? Why was it so memorable?
Going to the Gary Point, Britannia, Airport Park, Minoru Park and Vancouver Outlet. We will bring our food or buy our food to have picnic and do our walking and crafting.

What are you looking forward to after the pandemic is over?
To visit our families and friends, travel and have back our normal activities with no restrictions. Although the future is certainly going to look different than the past, but we will be better prepared to forge ahead thanks to the support from our staff.