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Sharing Place's Meals-4-Change program feeds hundreds weekly

Organization hopes to boost number of meals to 1,000 weekly once it gets a new kitchen; Recipients thankful for homemade dinners

Hundreds of meals are being delivered to those in need thanks to a weekly program organized by The Sharing Place Food Centre.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Sharing Place programs co-ordinator Nancy Hannah and volunteers use the St. James’ Anglican Church kitchen to prepare about 400 meals as part of the Meals-4-Change program.

Forty to 50 of them go to the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter, 55 go to Youth Haven, 12 to 24 are given to Community Mental Health Services and 40 are provided to St. James’ to be handed out in addition to its loonie lunch.

“It’s incredible to be able to take ingredients that, normally, folks would get in their food hampers but maybe don’t have the facilities or the know-how to create a meal with,” Hannah said. “Hopefully, that inspires them to use some of those items they’re getting in their hampers and create something themselves.”

The program has been well received so far. Hannah provided the following feedback she has received from those who have benefited from Meals-4-Change or delivered the meals to clients:

"Thank you for preparing ready-made meals. The variety of ingredients is certainly something that's not possible for a lot of folks to have on hand these days. I've enjoyed every one."

"I work at The Lighthouse Shelter ... Last night I distributed your parmesan chicken legs with pasta marinara to our 26 clients. It was the best meal I've had the privilege of sharing with them in the last year and all of our clients reacted very favourably to it. They look forward to tasting your food again!"

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making up these homemade dinners. My family and I really enjoy the dishes you made."

When the program began with the goal of providing 400 meals weekly, Hannah thought it was “a little ambitious.” It has worked out, though, and there are even more ambitious plans in the works.

The Sharing Place is working toward installing a community kitchen at its Dufferin Street facility, which will allow staff and volunteers to prepare 1,000 meals every week on site. The plans are in the early stages and more information, including how the community can support the project, will be released later.

The Sharing Place already works closely with various social service agencies in the area, but the Meals-4-Change program has “strengthened those partnerships even more,” said executive director Chris Peacock.

“It also gives other agencies in the community an opportunity to drop off food and make further connections with their members,” he said.

Meals-4-Change is important even to those who have the means to create their own meals with items provided by The Sharing Place, he added.

“Not everybody who is food insecure or living in poverty has the chance to ‘skip the dishes.’ This is a night off for them. Everyone deserves that,” he said.

Peacock and Hannah thanked the farmers, grocery stores and others who make it possible for the organization to obtain fresh food items to include in the hampers and Meals-4-Change program, as well as St. James’ for the use of its kitchen.