Getting groceries a difficult task for seniors in rural Newfoundland

Many seniors living in rural Newfoundland are going to local stores to get their groceries because the latest lockdown is hampering their access to larger food retailers in the metro St. John’s region.

Kyle Curtis

a near empty cupboard
Some seniors living in rural Newfoundland are finding supplies are running low. Many of them are waiting for a trip to the city so they can stock back up on the groceries they need. Photo illustration by Kyle Curtis/Kicker

Senior citizens living in outport communities are having a difficult time getting groceries, due to restricted travel into St. John’s.

On Feb. 5, chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced the province would move back to Alert Level 5. The provincial government advised people who live outside of the metro region not to travel in and out of the city, except for essential reasons.

A lot of seniors did not want to take the risk of contracting the virus and felt they had no other choice but to resort to getting the necessities they need from shops in their area.

“You gotta get in the car and go. It’s a half-hour to forty-five-minute drive until I get to a store.”
– Albert Molloy, St. Shott’s

Diane Corrigan, a senior citizen living in Trepassey, says Trepassey Variety is the only store in her area. The store provides people in Trepassey and people in the surrounding communities with basic essentials that they need.

“The trucks come up to the store Monday [with] fruits and vegetables and Thursday [with] dairy products,” said Corrigan.

If she doesn’t go to the store the day that the trucks come in, says Corrigan, it will be hard to get anything that she needs. She says the selection in food isn’t as good as at a store in St. John’s, which is about a two-hour drive from Trepassey.

“You can’t get fresh meat. Everything that comes in is frozen,” said Corrigan. “I’m sick of eating frozen fruits and vegetables.”

Wayne Hamlon, the owner of Trepassey Variety, says that he has been dealing with a lot of shortages lately.

“The reason why we have been seeing a lot of shortages lately is because of our weather,” Hamlon said. “The trucks aren’t getting across the Gulf.”

Corrigan says the local store carries basic products such as milk, eggs and some produce.

Prices do tend to be higher in smaller rural stores than at the big grocery stores in the metro St. John’s area.

“I could go to a store in Town and get a month’s worth of supplies and still be in money,” said Corrigan.”

Albert Molloy, a senior living in St. Shott’s, says that if you are living in an outport community you need to be ready for delays and shortages.

“In the outports, you always tend to stock a fair amount of groceries, so you always have an extra couple weeks of food on hand,” said Molloy.

Corrigan says her supply is running out and she desperately needs to make a trip to Town to stock back up.

“I haven’t been to St. John’s in two months,” said Corrigan. “I’m really getting down low on everything, and I had stocked up before Christmas even so that I had enough supplies to do me.”

The pandemic has been challenging for his business, says Hamlon, but he got through it.

“We managed to stay open during the pandemic even though we couldn’t get people to work,” said Hamlon.

Corrigan lives with her husband, Jim, and her two sons, Paul and Steven. Her sons have Down syndrome, and she says that the necessities that they need are hard to find in a store in Trepassey.

“I need distilled water for Paul and Steven for their CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine,” said Corrigan. “I had bought enough when I was out in January and now I only have two bottles left. [They are the] specialty items that you can’t always get.”

Getting to a store, says Molloy, is a job in itself.

“You gotta get in the car and go. It’s a half-hour to 45-minute drive until I get to a store,” said Molloy.

Both Corrigan and Molloy hope that the restrictions will ease up soon so that they can go to St. John’s to stock up on groceries.

“As soon as I can go, I’m gone to town,” said Corrigan.

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