by Heidi Klaschka
Every Tuesday evening, Arts undergraduates Andrea del Moral and Marc Nisbet thread their way through apartment lobbies and hallways, delivering hot meals for a charity.
"It's more like Meals on Heels rather than Meals on Wheels," quipped del Moral, striding along Guy St. at a brisk pace.
Del Moral, 20, and Nisbet, 23, are part of a team of Concordia students participating in Santropol Roulant's Project Go, designed to provide nutritious food six days a week to people who have lost some of their autonomy.
Meals on Wheels is a venerable charity that dates back to post-World War I England, while Santropol Roulant was started by a group of young Montrealers in 1994.
"It's not about money," Nisbet explained. "It's about mobility. We've had some rich people who are recovering from operations and just can't get out of the house."
The meals are prepared, sealed, and packed into thermal knapsacks at Santropol Roulant's kitchen at 111 Duluth West.
Bronwen Gillespie, one of Project Go's coordinators, is immersed in all aspects of the project. "Today's my day in the kitchen," she explained, scooping turnip into a section of white plastic tray. "We prepare almost 100 meals a day, six days a week."
Kitchen staff must also take into account diabetic and special food requests. Menus are pre-planned at least a month in advance. Dinners are then delivered to Concordia's QPIRG office on Mackay St. by 4 p.m. for student volunteers to begin their routes.
Del Moral and Nisbet always check their route folder for any changes before starting out. "We always take the same route," Nisbet explained. "People know when to expect us." Their deliveries take them as far west as Atwater St., and as far east as Stanley St.
Asked if delivering the meals was ever a depressing experience, both del Moral and Nisbet denied the idea vehemently.
"No, it's a way to chill out and expand," said del Moral, a creative writing major. "Not at all," said Nisbet, an Anthropology major, "It gets you away from your studies and helping people."
The mutually rewarding relationship between the volunteers and meal recipients were obvious as del Moral and Nisbet carried out their route.
"Come in! Come in!" exclaimed one elderly lady, as she ushered them in, "but be careful Peter and Michael don't get out!" The volunteers were quick to stoop and pet the two hefty black-and-white cats before handing over the meal of the day, Swiss steak with cauliflower, turnip and banana bread.
"We saved a little something for you," said their next customer, an elderly gentleman clad in his nightshirt, handing over surplus Halloween treat bags to the volunteers.
The Concordia students have encountered their share of problems on the route, but nothing too
overwhelming. One woman has a neighbour who always steals her desserts. Another man modifies his lists of "likes and dislikes"
on a monthly basis, but Nisbet feels this is more of a need for human contact.
Del Moral and Nisbet, with Santropol Roulant, are helping to combat several frightening statistics. One-third of Montreal's seniors live alone and are increasingly in need of health care services. As many as 50 per cent of seniors suffer from malnutrition. Many meal recipients are lonely and isolated, two major causes of depression.
At the end of Tuesday's two-hour route, Nisbet was philosophical. "You know, when I first started, if someone was grouchy, I used to think, 'What's with that guy?' but now I realize it's just people. It's you and me -- later."
Santropol Roulant is always looking for more student volunteers, on wheels or heels, in the kitchen or bike fixin', office ledgers or fundraisers. If you would like to volunteer, please phone Bronwen Gillespie at 282-0245 or e-mail roulant@
Marc Nisbet and Andrea del Moral