When Lisa* came to see Primary Care Nurse Kimberly Gordon-Krushell for depression, one of the first things Kim did was refer her to Nora Heighton, one of the registered dietitians in the Strathmore office.

Eighteen-year-old Lisa was very malnourished, as her family had severe financial constraints that did not allow for adequate protein and caloric consumption.

Nora worked with the family to determine the way to spend their money to get the biggest return. When they told her the budget she had to work with, she crunched the numbers – in terms of both dollars to spend, and nutritional value – to arrive at a plan that would provide more of what the family needed despite the leanness of their current budget.

Nora also toured Lisa and her family through the grocery store, to show them how buying in bulk, while pricier in the moment, saved money in the long run. She encouraged beans, lentils, eggs and dairy – all cheaper versions of protein than meat. She spent an hour and a half covering the aisles with them, reviewing tips and tricks for budget shopping.

Nora says, “It’s heartbreaking to see a family of four spending in a month what I probably spend on myself in a week.”

She also looked into the Community Kitchen in Calgary. One of their programs – Calgary’s Cooking – puts groups of individuals together who meet twice a month to plan and then cook healthy, nutritious and budget-friendly meals. Participants take home prepared meals and freeze them, at a more cost-efficient rate than if they were buying groceries on their own. Unfortunately, because the family’s transportation is not always reliable, it ended up not working for them.

Undaunted, Nora thought the Good Food Box program (still with Community Kitchen) would be a better fit. It allows people to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at a very low cost. It’s a hands-up program as opposed to hands-out. That’s when great things really started to happen.

Nora says that John at the Good Food Box warehouse in northeast Calgary “really went above and beyond. The Good Food Box program is normally provided at cost; but John made an exception when he provided a family-sized Good Food Box at no cost after hearing the family’s story. He also provided them with an emergency hamper on top of that.”

Since this windfall, the family has been sending Nora pictures of the food they’ve been receiving, saying, “It feels like Christmas!”


*Not her real name