“Everything starts with food. Without it, your mental health, your physical health, it all goes. You give up.”
There have been some low points for 57-year-old army veteran Cameron Brown over the last couple of decades. But a few years ago, when he had only one tooth left in his upper jaw and he was wasting away because he was unable to eat solid foods, his body covered with painful psoriasis, things were especially rough.
“I couldn’t afford to eat well. I could barely pay the bills, keep a roof over my head,” he explains. “I couldn’t buy food that had any vitamins. It was all filler. Canned foods. My teeth just fell out.”
After struggling with addiction when he left the army, Cameron had pulled together a life in Nelson, B.C. But after the lumber mill closed and jobs became scarce, he was priced out of the rental market, and forced to live in a tent on the beach for a year. Eventually, he pieced together seasonal work, got on disability supports and found an affordable apartment, but accessing healthy food remained a challenge.
“Everything starts with food,” he says. “Without it, your mental health, your physical health, it all goes. You give up.”
Things started looking up for Cameron when he got his psoriasis under control and he was fitted with a set of upper dentures last year. These days, he’s the first person many people meet at the Nelson Community Food Centre where he volunteers as a receptionist, and accesses community dining and food programs. He’s still dealing with a myriad of health issues including arthritis and thyroid problems, but he’s eating well for the first time in a long time, and he feels it.
“My brain is working again,” he says. “I feel good. It makes me happy that I can make others happy.”