HUNGRY IN LAMBTON: ‘Some days I don’t eat’

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Glenn Ogilvie Photo Al Labadie, 54, at the Alvinston Food Bank.

The Independent presents the second week of a six-part series by Reporter Cathy Dobson and Photographer Glenn Ogilvie focused on the alarming number of rural Lambton residents who increasingly cannot afford to feed themselves and their families.  Over the last nine months, we investigated how food insecurity is impacting our community and talked to the people who regularly access more than a dozen area food banks. We also examined the challenges faced by the extraordinary volunteers and agencies providing free food to a wide cross section of adults and children.
Here are their stories.

Cathy Dobson/For The Independent

Alvinston’s Al Labadie knows about hard times.

He’s depended on Lambton County social housing and the town’s food bank for years. It’s been a struggle since his mom died, he was evicted and chronic health problems landed him in a wheelchair.
Labadie says he’s grateful but his circumstances mean he has to live in a fairly isolated corner of rural Lambton. 

And he often doesn’t have enough groceries on hand to eat three meals every day.

Seven years ago, the 54-year-old former trucker was living in his vehicle for more than two months when Lambton County social services came through with a subsidized apartment for him.

“They gave me a choice. I could either move to Thedford or Alvinston,” he said. “I figured Alvinston would be a little closer to things.”

It’s quiet and there’s not much to do, especially with little money.  But people in Alvinston are friendly, he said.  Passersby often wave or stop to talk to Labadie as he leaves the food bank in his wheelchair.

He chose to accept an apartment in Alvinston even though he knew he’d feel isolated.

“It was getting cold living in the truck and I had cramps in my legs,” he said.  When his mother died, Labadie says their landlord gave him three weeks to move out so the landlord’s family member could move in.

Glenn Ogilvie Photo
Al Labadie, 54, at the Alvinston Food Bank.

It’s a common enough story among renters and it left Labadie homeless until Lambton County social services found him a subsidized apartment.
 
Labadie collects ODSP, which for him amounts to $1,031 a month.  He watches every cent, he said, because he’s got to make it stretch.

“I pay my rent, my phone, my satellite, vehicle insurance, gas and the interest on a loan,” he said. 

That leaves $37 a month for groceries.

“I have no choice but to come to the food bank,” Labadie said, carrying the two bags of food he picked up from the Alvinston food bank, which he visits twice a month. 

“I haven’t grocery shopped in six months. I can’t afford it,” he said. 

There are few choices in his life these days.  Labadie buys cigarettes when he can but says that isn’t very often.

“I gave that up too because there are days I have to choose between eating and having a smoke,” he said.

He wishes the government would increase ODSP payments and that the food bank would hand out more groceries.

“Don’t get me wrong, people are nice. They help you out,” he said.

“But there are some days I don’t eat, or maybe I eat just once a day.”
 

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