Prospering During COVID-19

ECF Rapid Response Grant enables a meal delivery program, free of charge, for people living with mental illness in Edmonton

When clients who came for low-cost meals at Prosper Place were told, like everyone else, to remain at home as much as possible, Jessica Meilleur and her small staff and volunteers worried that the people they served would sink back into isolation or depression and get set back on their mental-wellness journey.

Meilleur is the Culture Manager at Prosper Place, a West Edmonton nonprofit where adults with mental illness come to access low-cost meals, find work opportunities, build skills, and have community support.

“Everything we do at Prosper Place is to bring people out of isolation,” explains Meilleur. “We’re the non-clinical side of our members’ mental-wellness journey.”

COVID-19 physical distancing rules and safety protocols effectively cut its members off from an important component of rebuilding health and wellness for hundreds of them.

Thankfully, the $22,000 Rapid Response Fund from Edmonton Community Foundation was “a game-changer,” Meilleur said.

Now, members who would eat at Prosper Place are having a weekly delivery of two full meals, right to their door, completely free of charge.

Prepared by Prosper Place’s in-house chef and volunteers, these “Meals in a Bag” are individually packaged with full instructions on how to reheat or prepare some of the parts. “And we include a ‘happy note’ for the week to keep everybody’s spirits up,” adds Meilleur.

A team of volunteers then delivers to about 100 clients.

Knowing that part of the benefit was a social and supportive environment when meals were served at Prosper Place, even the short conversation at the doorstep is an important element to their members’ wellbeing.

Dani O’Donnell has been a Prosper Place member for almost four years. He echoes this sentiment of the importance of good nutrition and social connection during the pandemic.

“When it started I went back into a deep depression and had anxiety,” says O’Donnell. “I’ve never been on my own for this long of a time.”

He got through the depression and deals better with the anxiety because he no longer worries about getting meals. “They’re really good vegetables, meats, and desserts. And you know that they still care about your meals and how you are doing. It makes your day.”

“It’s a joy for our members every week to see us pull up with food,” Meilleur said. “They’re so thankful, for the food, but also to know that we’re thinking about them. And that we care about them.”

Meilleur says that staff, volunteers, and clients feel like family.

“The meals are more than just food. It’s not just nutrition. It’s hope. It’s love. That’s what it is.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.