Top News

Grocery store madness in St. John's as people scramble during state of emergency

Tony Legge (left), Daniel Sharpe and Ann Norris went to several different stores Tuesday to buy food when the lineups at the Blackmarsh Road Dominion in St. John's were too long when the state of emergency was lifted for people to get groceries and certain essentials. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
Tony Legge (left), Daniel Sharpe and Ann Norris went to several different stores Tuesday to buy food when the lineups at the Blackmarsh Road Dominion in St. John's were too long when the state of emergency was lifted for people to get groceries and certain essentials. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Linda Richards’ eyes filled with tears while she sat on her walking aid in the porch of the Blackmarsh Road Dominion in St. John’s Tuesday, waiting for a chance to go inside the store.

She and two of her fellow residents of Marguerite's Place, a housing facility run by the St. John’s Women’s Centre on Cashin Avenue, got a free taxi ride from the companies helping vulnerable people get to grocery stores on Day 5 of the state of emergency caused by last Friday’s record-breaking blizzard.

The trio had not been anywhere since last Thursday.

“It was getting to me,” Richards said.

“I have cancer, and trying to be independent and that, a storm takes away stuff from you.”

Linda Richards (left), Rosalie Simon and Lynn Seward wait in the porch of the Dominion on Blackmarsh Road for their turn inside the store to get groceries during the state of emergency in St. John's Tuesday. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
Linda Richards (left), Rosalie Simon and Lynn Seward wait in the porch of the Dominion on Blackmarsh Road for their turn inside the store to get groceries during the state of emergency in St. John's Tuesday. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM

She was hoping to pick up medication, milk and food, and wasn’t sure if her medical appointment would go ahead Friday.

“I miss my family and friends. I haven’t seen them since Thursday,” added Lynn Seaward.

“It’s stressful to not know if you are going to get out,” said Rosalie Simon.

Tueday evening, Richards said the Dominion staff were helpful and directed them to the pharmacy, where they were checked out faster with someone helping to bag groceries.

"Oh my gosh," she said.

There were lineups and traffic jams around the city at grocery stores Tuesday, and waits of hours inside and out.

Friends and Amherst Heights area residents (from left) Desiree Newhook, Peter Walsh and Christie Fahey carpooled Tuesday to get to the Dominion supermarket on Blackmarsh Road in St. John’s. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Friends and Amherst Heights area residents (from left) Desiree Newhook, Peter Walsh and Christie Fahey carpooled Tuesday to get to the Dominion supermarket on Blackmarsh Road in St. John’s. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

At the Blackmarsh Road Dominion midmorning, the lineups stretched across the adjacent liquor store and back around the building, and the doors were locked, while staff let in one person at a time. Staff were formulating a plan to move cars to accomodate the line in accordance with fire department rules.

In the lineup, people were aware of the long waits. They’d either carpooled, walked from home or parked several blocks away and were expecting staples like bread, milk and eggs might be running low.

People coming out of the store said the chicken supply was depleted. (Country Ribbon is not open.)

Many said they had prepared for but were not expecting the outfall from the storm. Some folks enjoyed speaking to a reporter just to pass the time in line.

Some needed speciality dietary items, like gluten-free food due to celiac disease.

Chelsee Arbour and Julia Penney were among the people in the lineup Tuesday at the Blackmarsh Road Dominion in St. John’s when some restrictions were lifted in the state of emergency to let people get groceries and other essentials. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
Chelsee Arbour and Julia Penney were among the people in the lineup Tuesday at the Blackmarsh Road Dominion in St. John’s when some restrictions were lifted in the state of emergency to let people get groceries and other essentials. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM

Many were running low on pet food.

In the case of pets, some allergies and conditions were unlikely to be accomodated in a grocery store, but they would make due with whatever they could get.

Julia Penney’s cats are on specialty foods.

“I am doing them a disservice getting Meow Mix or whatever,” she said.

Another thing they were certain would not be found was something only pet stores usually carry — pill pockets, which are soft treats to wrap around medicine tablets that pets usually spit out otherwise.

“Pill pockets are gold right now,” said Chelsee Arbour, who was in line to pick up gluten-free food for her partner, as they ran low.

In a tag team effort, her partner would come back with the car when Arbour got through the checkout.

Penney had parked in Mundy Pond, blocks away, because traffic was backed up and the Dominion lot was packed.

There was a long lineup of people waiting to get inside Marie’s Mini-Mart on Thorburn Road on Tuesday. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
There was a long lineup of people waiting to get inside Marie’s Mini-Mart on Thorburn Road on Tuesday. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Tracey Lamkin walked over from several blocks away hoping to get essentials, such as milk, as her nearby grocery store, Ropewalk Lane Sobeys was closed due to a power outage.

Alexis Dupuis walked from downtown and had managed to get in the door with no lines at 10 a.m. With her groceries, she was walking back down Blackmarsh Road with a scarf wrapped around her face to brace against the cold.

“I have never seen this much snow in my life,” said the College of the North Atlantic student, who is from Saskatchewan.

Walking up the hill from St. Clare’s Hospital toward Raleigh Street, Tony Legge, Daniel Sharpe and Ann Norris had been to several different convenience stores in search of cereal, bananas, apples and other necessities after seeing the lineup at Dominion.

“We left home at 9 a.m.,” said Legge, pausing on the hill at 12:30 p.m. for a break.

Meanwhile, other people who did not stock up before the storm were in a conundrum Tuesday as well.

Nikki Emberly was trying to get help for her and some neighbours, as they’re on welfare and don’t have extra money to get groceries even if they take a free taxi ride to the store on offer Tuesday. She also said she had hip surgery and has other medical issues.

“A lot of people in this building are either physically or mentally disabled,” she said. “We’re on welfare. Our lights and rent are paid. But I only got $50 every two weeks. We’ve been stuck inside for days. … To be honest, I sometimes panhandle down on George Street. I don’t want to do it if I could work.”

But with the blizzard and the state of emergency, the downtown panhandling opportunities were nil.

Someone had delivered some food to her Monday night and there were also groups banding together to help get groceries to less-fortunate people, and she was hoping they would be able to help her.

The group St. John's Food Sharing Co-op-Stone Soup was co-ordinating picking up and delivering groceries Tuesday and was preparing meals for people in need.

Mark Wilson said the group delivered food to a woman who hadn’t eaten in two days.

He said Colemans on Newfoundland Drive also donated a cartload of food.

Members of the group have been going door to door checking on people, and have neighbourhood leaders organized.

Twitter: @BarbSweetTweets

RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories