Hunger Series: Revere woman struggles just to go shopping

Janice Dumas sits with her service dog Neelix and cat Purrball. (Spenser R. Hasak)

REVERE — There’s not much in Janice Dumas’ refrigerator.

On the day we visited her Walnut Avenue apartment, the 57-year-old former occupational safety engineer had milk, a loaf of bread, eggs, yogurt, and bottled water. The freezer contained two pieces of fish, one with a May expiration date, and a frozen pizza.

“I can’t remember the last time I had a salad,” she said.

Dumas, who suffered a stroke three years ago, is no longer able to drive and depends on the MBTA to shop.

Since the stroke, Dumas has used a service dog, Neelix.

“I have balance issues, so I put one hand on him, one hand on my cart, so I’m very limited as to what I can buy,” she said.

Not only that, but getting to and from the Market Basket at the Northgate Shopping Center on Squire Road is another hurdle. While it’s less than two miles from her apartment, it typically takes 90 minutes each way on the T.

“I have to take two buses to the market and the routes don’t sync,” she said. “I take one bus downtown and wait for the second bus from Broadway to Market Basket.”

It’s challenging during the winter months, when snow makes it tough to navigate the city streets. But it’s even worse in hot weather, she said.

“I can’t buy anything that needs refrigeration because I could be out there waiting and traveling for an hour and a half,” she said.

Typically, she buys non perishables such as cereal, rice, and pasta on her once-a-month supermarket trip. She routinely goes without fruit, vegetables, and meat.

“I can’t get anything that can be squished, and I’m limited by the size of my cart, which fits about four or five bags. If I get paper towels or toilet paper that’s one bag gone.”

While Dumas has a computer with internet access and can order online, she’s limited by her fixed income.

“I know how to use Peapod, but there’s a $15 delivery charge,” she said. “Roche Bros. delivers free for elders, but their prices are almost as expensive as a convenience store.”

About once a month, a friend drives her to the mall where she can get her fill of fresh vegetables and fruit.

“That’s when I get a chance to stock up,” she said.

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