We’ve taken a lot of pride in the 8 years since we’ve opened our doors in the fact that our community meals have been a place for EVERYONE in our community to share a meal together up to three times each week. By encouraging a mixed demographic at our community meals, we’ve been able to reduce the stigma and increase the dignity attached to accessing at least one basic source of nutritious food for many of our neighbours who may be experiencing barriers to good, healthy food.
Our meals are cooked from scratch with nutritious whole produce and unprocessed locally raised meats procured by our storehouse team. They’re plated with care under the guideance and leadership of our community chef by our team of volunteers, many of whom may have just recently acquired new kitchen skills at one of our programs. Many others are restaurant professionals themselves spending a rare day off sharing their love of food and their belief that good food shouldn’t be a luxury available only to those who can afford a trip to one of our city’s long list of incredible restaurants.
In happier times, we also had a team of front-of-house volunteers who would deliver plated dishes to our community members, clear and clean the dishes. The potential stress for someone experiencing chronic food insecurity at the end of a lineup of people wondering if there’s enough food for everyone, is something we definitely wanted to eliminate as much as we could.
A glimpse of our community meals past…
For the last three weeks, however, we’ve had to make some serious adjustments in order to minimize the risk that staff, volunteers, and program participants have to virus exposure while recognising that the most vulnerable in our community who face food insecurity, domestic violence, and housing challenges are at increased levels of risk right now and need the support of our community now more than ever.
The biggest difference, of course, is that we cannot eat together as a community. For the safety and health of the community we’ve moved to a take-away model and, for the time being, asked our dedicated team of volunteers to stay home. Meals have been made and distributed by staff alone, although we have recently added a couple of kitchen roster spots for restaurant professionals who can make the most efficient use of the limited number of stations we can safely have in our kitchen space and don’t need to be reminded about the importance of maximum safe food handling protocols under the current circumstances.
Other tips and tricks that have worked for us: