Inflation crisis: pregnant, but with an empty stomach
Agencies warn that many pregnant women in poverty are not getting enough to eat due to rising cost life.
Nutritionists from the Montreal Diet Dispensary follow pregnant women living in poverty during their pregnancy. This year, demand has exploded.
In the office of nutritionist Ouardia Zeggane, Astryd*, 39 weeks pregnant, recounts her efforts to obtain a little money in anticipation of her delivery, which could occur at any time. As the discussion unfolds, one thing emerges. Astryd does not have enough to eat.
At the Montreal Diet Dispensary, which has been helping pregnant women in poverty since 1879, the word inflation doesn't mean much. Most of our customers are in survival mode, confides Ms. Zeggane in an interview. is not the priority. They're more like, “Am I going to have enough food to eat?” I eat twice a day, can I eat three times a day?"
“They're not necessarily going to say, 'Ah, inflation this year is seven percent,' but we know that. affects them, we see. »
— Ouardia Zeggane, nutritionist at the Montreal Diet Dispensary
The head of a single-parent family, Astryd will not be able to count on anyone to help him eat at home. his return from the hospital. But his nutritionist is already offering solutions.
In her office, Ouardia Zeggane gives Astryd postpartum advice.
Try cooking things with lentils, beans, soups. Something solid that you freeze and that you can eat in the first few days, she advises her client. If you haven't cooked or you're tired, drink a glass of milk. Or eat an egg. You can boil them and they can stay in the fridge for a week. Do seven at once.
The Dispensary was one of the first community organizations to be created in Montreal.
As early as 1879, its founder, Emily F. De Witt, distributed eggs, milk, fruit and broth door to door to 300 pregnant women in need.
In the 1950s, Agnes C. Higgins, then director of the organization, realized that babies in the Saint-Henri district were lighter than those in the Westmount district, who were born in the same hospital. She thus developed a nutritional approach, the Higgins method, which is still used to this day to prevent deficiencies in mothers and their children.
The Dispensary's nutritionists diligently monitor the eating habits of hundreds of poor women, often immigrant refugees, awaiting status in Canada. They try to help them get enough protein and nutrients to prevent the birth of low birth weight babies, which could lead to a range of health problems for the newborn.
Located in the heart of Montreal, the Dispensary has been helping impoverished pregnant women since 1879.
< p class="e-p">The Dispensary continues to monitor women after they give birth. Catherine Labelle, also a nutritionist, receives in her office a young couple, David and Marie*, and their newborn.
Ms. Labelle examines and weighs the baby, but also makes sure her parents have enough to eat. David and Marie lack everything, but that's fine, assures the father. The food banks recommended by the nutritionist offer them some respite. But to the question: How many meals do you eat a day? David's answer is more hesitant. Sometimes one, sometimes two, if we have [something to eat], he admits.
And Mary is worried. She fears that her breast milk will be contaminated by her nutritional deficiencies. But her nutritionist tries to reassure her. Your milk is always perfect, even if there are days when you eat a little less.
If Mrs. Labelle encourages Marie to continue breastfeeding rather than switch to formula for infants, it is not for ideological reasons. The price of commercial preparations has exploded this year. By giving only your milk [to the baby], it allows you to keep the money to buy food for you and for the family, she points out to the mother.
“If it costs twenty dollars a week for the bottle, that's twenty dollars you don't have to eat.” »
— Catherine Labelle, nutritionist at the Montreal Diet Dispensary
Catherine Labelle does not hide it: the situation of the women she follows has worsened. Sometimes I have a woman in my office who is 35 or 36 weeks [pregnant] and who eats 500, 600 calories a day. His needs are around 2000 or 2500 calories. It's not because she doesn't want to eat more. It's because she can't.
Catherine Labelle is a nutritionist at the Dispensary .
I don't think there are many people who are aware that there are situations like this in Montreal and Quebec, she said.
At the x27;outside Montreal, Fondation Olo takes over to provide food aid and nutritional monitoring to pregnant women in need.
L' The foundation's team of nutritionists criss-crosses the province, from the North Shore to the Outaouais, and distributes vouchers that women can redeem at the grocery store for milk, eggs and vegetables.
At the moment, we notice that the demand is increasing everywhere, says the director of the foundation, Élise Boyer. More families have fallen into situations of food insecurity in recent months.
Élise Boyer chairs the Olo Foundation.
Olo's nutritionists point out that, in the field, the situation of several women is critical. Their findings are recorded in a report entitled Family Monitoring Olo and Inflation.
The most worrying of them: more and more women are using their vouchers to feed their families. It doesn't make sense that we've gotten there, drop the director.
Parents have always deprived themselves for their children. We've seen that all along. The parents who give the best pieces, that's part of the reality. But here, we have reached another level, says Ms. Boyer.
“The image is strong, but we are a little choosing between the unborn child and the child at the table. »
— Élise Boyer, Director of the Olo Foundation
However, she swears not to judge the unimaginable choice of these women, even if this choice is not without consequences.
A child who has not had his nutritional needs met during pregnancy is more likely to develop different forms of language or cognitive delays, or health problems later in life, she points out.
In the pantry of the Montreal Diet Dispensary, Ouardia Zeggane prepares a bag of groceries for Astryd. While slipping rice, milk, canned goods and biscuits into a bag, she reflects on the limits of her work as a nutritionist in this period of inflationary pressure.
Lately, in his meetings, it is less about healthy eating than just eating.
You have to take a step back, she said. What's the point of telling someone to follow Canada's Food Guide healthy plate, and to eat vegetables and whole grains if they don't have anything to eat at all? We must put things into perspective and return to more realistic objectives.
If, in this case, it is to eat three times a day, well, the question is how do we get there?
As a sign of the scale of the crisis, the Dispensary is overstretched this year. Its director, Julie Paquette, confirms that the organization has received more than 380 requests in six months, as many as it had received for all of 2021.
Even with limited means, the Dispensary's nutritionists are busy preparing for the holiday season. They have prepared cookie recipes for their customers, which they will only have to mix and bake.
The Dispensary team has prepared jar cookie recipes for families in need.
With l& #x27;help from donors, the organization will be able to distribute checks for one hundred dollars and put together Christmas baskets for the families who need them the most.
But already, the team is anticipating the aftermath of the Holidays, when donations are rarer, but where the demand does not weaken.
* The names of these individuals have been changed to preserve their anonymity.