21 November 2020 Posted By : Munk School Staff

By creating a volunteer group, U of T grad Adam Zivo brought food to low-income seniors during COVID-19

When the pandemic forced communities into lockdown in March, Adam Zivo offered to deliver groceries to his mother as a way to help in a time of need.

Soon after, he set out to help the broader community by creating LifeCrates, an initiative that helped to address food insecurity among low-income seniors.

“Low-income seniors are a particularly vulnerable demographic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Zivo, a master of public policy student at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy who is graduating this week. “In the earlier stages of this health crisis, it was unclear whether it was safe for seniors to shop at grocery stores. Some were able to work around their safety concerns by to arranging for grocery delivery.

“For some seniors, though, grocery delivery wasn’t financially feasible.”

Nearly 16 per cent of Toronto’s population are seniors aged 65 and over, according to the 2016 cenus. Out of this group of older adults, nearly half live in economically precarious conditions and 17 per cent of seniors are considered low income. The pandemic exacerbated food security issues for this group.


“Older adults are already vulnerable in normal times and, as the pandemic unfolds, many have been cut off from their regular support systems, such as food banks,” says Zivo. “When I launched LifeCrates, no other organization appeared to focus on needs of low-income seniors. It simply made sense for this initiative to fill that gap.”

LifeCrates began as way to address the acute food security crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of registered dieticians who vetted packages for their nutritional value and longevity, LifeCrates personnel delivered a month’s worth of food to low-income seniors. Given the critical nature of food insecurity, Zivo’s main focus was to set up quickly by “getting the simplest, market-viable product out there” and making improvements as he went.

“In situations like these, it isn't a choice between an imperfectly equitable solution and an equitable one, but rather a choice between an imperfectly equitable solution and no solution at all,” he says.

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