Gladys Meinema, a Watson Lake Community Hospital cook, prepares meals for the frozen meal delivery program geared towards Liard First Nation elders. (Carol Chiasson/Submitted)

Liard First Nation, Watson Lake hospital team up on frozen meal program for elders

Elders can place their orders on Monday and are delivered their meals on Friday

A weekend frozen meal delivery service for Liard First Nation (LFN) elders — the brainchild of a collaboration between the First Nation and Watson Lake Community Hospital — has been warmly received by the community, officials say.

Launched in mid-December 2018, the program, which is free for elders as well as terminally-ill or disabled LFN members, sees LFN outreach staff take meal orders from program participants.

The meals are then cooked at the hospital kitchen before being cooled and flash-frozen. LFN then delivers four days’ worth of frozen meals to elders on Friday.

About 40 elders use the program every week.

Yukon Hospital Corporation spokesperson Matt Davidson said the idea for the program came up during a “total chance meeting” between Watson Lake Community Hospital’s director of patient care and experience, Carol Chiasson, and LFN’s health manager, Soulia Pourabdi-Laukkanen.

The two were discussing the difficulty some LFN elders faced in getting healthy meals that met their needs — for example, some elders require pureed or minced food — and in particular on weekends, when family members or other caretakers may be out of town.

“They realized, ‘Hey, (the hospital has) the capacity to cook and the ingredients, and there’s a growing need in the community, so let’s collaborate,’” Davidson said.

The hospital already had all the staff and facilities required to make the meals, Davidson said; the only additional equipment required was a chill blaster, which LFN purchased and is now installed at the hospital.

While LFN had its own “meals on wheels” program prior to the frozen meal program, it required the First Nation to hire cooks to prepare meals daily at two separate locations, Pourabdi-Laukkanen wrote in an email, and the approach was not financially sustainable.

The current program runs on a cost-recovery basis, which works out to less than $10 per day per participant, Pourabdi-Laukkanen wrote, although the figure can vary based on what and how many items are ordered.

Menu options include vegetable soup, beef barley soup, steamed salmon with rice pilaf and vegetables, baked ham with scalloped potatoes and vegetables and roast turkey dinner. While a meal typically consists of a soup and an entree, elders can opt to have only soup, for example, or request extra meals if required.

“The response from the community has been very positive. Elders have reported that they enjoy the convenience of not having to cook and being able to relax and spend more time with their families,” Pourabdi-Laukkanen wrote.

“ … Since (its) inception, subscription to the meal service has nearly doubled; a sign that LFN’s community of elders in need of this service are embracing the program.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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