Finding sustenance from food… and family

Essential needs
September 23, 2019 •  By Centraide

Darquis lives in a food desert. He goes to a Centraide-supported agency to eat better and spend time with his adopted family!

“My name is Darquis. I’ve lived in my neighbourhood for five years. A few months ago, I started going to La P’tite Maison to try and help other people—and myself—become part of the community again. Since having an accident a few years ago, I had been isolating myself and needed to do something to get back into the world.

I left home when I was 15 because I didn’t fit in. I was a figure skater, ballet dancer and musician in a small town that was all about baseball and hockey. I travelled across Canada. I first moved to Toronto, where I met my wife. But when the rent became too expensive, we decided to move to Quebec.

I was in a serious work accident—I was crushed by 800 kg of Plexiglas—and can no longer work. Then my wife died, and I found myself all alone with my son. She was my world and the rock of our family. I felt so alone. I started hiding out in my basement.

One day, I ran into a case worker from La P’tite Maison at a food bank. She invited me to the agency’s activities, but I didn’t want to go. After a few months of her insisting, I finally said yes. I couldn’t believe it! I found a new family. It was like I had come home.

Everyone wants to decide how their home is managed. That’s why people (like me) come here and do things. When I started working in the garden, they said, “If you have ideas, share them with us and we’ll help you implement them.” In fact, thanks to the garden, I feel like I’m back to work at a new job. I can’t stand sitting around my house anymore. I feel like I have a purpose in life. And I want to show my son that there’s nothing you can’t overcome.

We live in an area where there’s nothing to eat, as the neighbourhood has no food markets. People who live here, especially seniors, have nowhere to go to get healthy food. Most don’t have a car, so the only option is to use public transit or paratransit, or to ask a friend for a ride just to go to the grocery store. I’m doing better now, but five years ago, the idea of getting on a bus to run errands a few kilometres away was daunting. So I had to go to the depanneur, which cost me double the price. That’s what people do.

At La P’tite Maison, we have a weekly stand that sells affordable fruits and vegetables. You can get a full paper bag’s worth for two dollars. Right now we only have sprouts, because we just launched the program. But by the end of the summer, we’ll have tomatoes, cucumbers, celery—everything. We’re trying to start a food system with a garden, market and purchasing group. When I get to La P’tite Maison, they always ask if I have food at home. If I’ve run out, they always find something for me in the fridge or the pantry.”

— Darquis