Until early February I had never heard of Lombardy, Italy. Truth be told, I still don’t know much about it. I’ve read that it’s a hub of fashion, finance and home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” but other than that, I had minimal knowledge.

Since late-February I’ve come to know Lombardy as the city where a virus turned into a pandemic.

The news reports that Covid-19 is particularly hard on those who have asthma, diabetes or heart conditions. I’m an asthmatic and a diabetic. I’m also a Parkie so after reading about Covid-19 and its effects I knew I needed to come up with a plan to stay healthy. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, survival (the base level) requires mastering physiological needs – e.g. food, sleep and water. The trouble was, I didn’t know how to start.

I decided that food would be my first priority. If I didn’t have enough of it, I was sure to get sick. I decided that my plan should be broken into three parts: short-term nutritional needs (which would cover me for a couple of weeks); mid-term needs (which would take care of me for a month or two); and a doomsday plan which I’d implement only if things got ugly.

Implementation of my short-term plan wasn’t terribly different from how I live ordinarily. I bought meat, fruits and vegetables. I made sure to buy extra beef and pork because they freeze well and can last for several meals if needed. I froze all of it.

I froze a lot of veggies. The freezing process has always a bit of a mystery to me but it’s actually quite simple – wash the produce, lay it out on parchment paper to dry and then pop them into the freezer. Some produce needs to be blanched before freezing so I did a lot of Googling to make sure I didn’t mess up. And a value add to frozen produce is that it maintains its nutritional value for about a year.

Periods of high stress exacerbates my Parkinson’s so my day-to-day diet is always high in fruits and veggies which are rich with antioxidants which helps reduce stress. I bought a farm’s worth of carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, apples, bananas, cauliflower and lettuce. I’m not a nutritionist but I’ve learned that eating foods that are the colors of the rainbow is good for you.

Bananas made the list because they pay big dividends for Parkies. Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, but most importantly bananas give the brain energy. The yellow fruit sharpens the mind, helps with cognitive function, attention and learning. If I’m going to spend the next few months of my life trying to avoid a pandemic, I’m bringing some bananas along with me.

It’s not lost on me that the short-term food plan is one that I should follow more closely as a Parkie. Note to self. s The growing season is just around the corner so fresh produce will be available widely. But just in case…I bought some cans of fruits and vegetables to be safe. A few bags of frozen fruit and vegetables were also added.

To save some money I did some research and found a company called ImperfectFoods.com that delivers – what else? – food that isn’t going to win a beauty pageant. Imperfect food is defined by appearance. If a carrot is bent or a tomato is dented Imperfect Food bundles them up for home delivery. Each week a box of mangled stuff is delivered to my house. I never know what I’m going to get but that’s part of the fun. And the best thing about finding a service like this is they’ve cut my produce bill by nearly 35 percent.

The snacker

I’m a snacker. I’m especially fond of nuts and apples. My nuts of choice are – almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, or macadamia nuts. It’s no coincidence that I like nuts because they’re also rich in antioxidants which helps manage my stress. I’m really careful when buying nuts in the grocery store because they’ve likely been touched. I found two online stores, Bee Fruity and Nutty and We Got Nuts that sell nuts in smallish packages and, if you’re like me, take the risk of sharing germs out of the equation.

The doomsday plan

The last two months have been scary for all of us so I decided that I needed to add a third leg to my Covid-19 survival stool. I focused my efforts on buying food that won’t spoil – dried fruit, Ramen, soup, pasta, spaghetti sauce and oatmeal. The choices won’t win any James Beard Awards, but without some form of food my Parkinson’s will react negatively.

Exercise

I live in a shelter-in-place city. That means we’re allowed to jog, walk and walk our dogs and that’s about it. I found an office park that has a huge parking lot. I take my dog on a long walk every afternoon. While the walk is tremendously helpful, being in the fresh air and sunshine also lifts my spirits. Vitamin D is our friend. Plus, as a PWP I need to keep moving or there will be consequences.

Here are some other tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Stock up on water.
  • If possible, order as much as you can online.
  • If your local grocery store delivers and you can swing it, sign up. You might pay a little more (my grocery store charges $4.95).
  • Make sure you are sufficiently stocked with meds and personal hygiene products. Some insurance carriers are allowing patients to order a three-month supply of meds. Some pharmacies will also deliver some types of medications.
  • If you want same-day delivery of food but can’t get out, check out companies such as Instacart. The company will do your shopping and deliver it in a few hours.
  • If the big box grocery store is running low on the items you like, check out the corner mom and pop market. People forget that the privately owned markets are also a source of food. Your selections might be limited but privately owned markets can be a find.
  • Some grocery stores have exclusive early morning hours for seniors and those with disabilities. My grocery store, for example, is open from 6 am to 9 am for those needing some extra time.
  • Good luck and keep moving.

    Kevin Woo is a freelance writer from San Francisco. You can read some of his other stories at www.kevinjwoo.com.