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Grace’s Story
Food for Thought

Grace has spent her life and career caring for others. In addition to raising three children of her own, she has worked in after-school programs and as a caregiver for families in her community. To many, she is considered a second mother—a wonderful legacy for someone whose own mother left her at an early age.

Born in Italy during the war, Grace experienced a childhood marked by scarcity and uncertainty. “I remember lining up for food with my mother and younger brother,” she says. When she married, Grace and her husband wanted a fresh start. They moved to Canada with their daughter in search of a better life.

The couple had two more children and did their best to settle into their new community and learn a new language. When Grace’s marriage ended at 51, she was forced to start over yet again. To help support her three teenagers, she took a job working for a children’s program at a local recreation centre. It was a perfect fit—and soon Grace became even more engaged in her community.

Today Grace is a retired senior living alone, like many others in the region. A United Way–funded initiative—the YWCA Halifax Food First program—has provided a vital lifeline and community connection for Grace. The program educates women—most of them seniors—about nutrition, healthy living and cooking on a budget. Each week, a group of participants gather to share a meal and to discuss their health and well-being.

Grace sees the program, supported by donors like you, as an important source of companionship as well as information. “I’m learning from people every day. There’s always a friend there. We all have something to give.”

There have been health benefits, too. Grace, who once struggled with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, says the Food First program has increased her nutritional knowledge and improved her physical condition.

She even does some of her local grocery shopping at another United Way–supported initiative called the Mobile Food Market. This initiative works to bring fresh, high-quality, affordable foods to neighbourhoods experiencing food insecurity through pop-up markets or produce packs. Grace, who has no car, appreciates the chance to get healthy ingredients close to home. “When I was born, during the war, there was no food, so we went in line for food,” she says. “Now the food comes to me—how great is that?”


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“I started my relationship with the agency four years ago. I was attending a program to learn about computers and someone suggested I could have lunch at the senior’s centre in the same building as the school. I was served delicious lunches and was able to participate in activities. The centre gives seniors a sense of independence and a chance to have a social life. They make them feel important.
As a newcomer, Sebastian found himself struggling in school and trying to learn English. Now, five years later, he is volunteering at the United Way-supported agency and serving as a leader to newcomers arriving today. His family emigrated from there home country when Sebastian was seven. “It was because of the state my country was in. It wasn’t the greatest in terms of safety. We were shot at one day when going to my grandma’s house, and I think that’s what led my parents to finally make the decision to immigrate.”