With Demand on the Rise, Niagara Falls Soup Kitchen Hosts ‘Fill the Bus’ Event on November 27
The number of people arriving each day for free take-out lunches at the Niagara Falls soup kitchen continues to increase with no signs of slowing needs, Niagara Falls Community Outreach Board of Directors hosts ‘fill the bus’ event to stock its shelves.
The event, which will take place on Saturday November 27 at the Zehrs supermarket on Morrison Street in Dorchester Road, has been an annual initiative for about four years. But this year, it’s more important than ever because of the increased need to feed the vulnerable, said Bonnie Brady, president of fundraising and volunteer member of the agency’s board of directors.
Since COVID-19 arrived in March of last year and the province implemented a series of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and restrictions, the soup kitchen has gone from in-person lunches and dinners to take-out lunches once a day.
At one point, 100 people at a sit-down meal would have been a good-sized crowd, Brady said. But demand during the pandemic has increased dramatically.
“Our average was 185 meals (per day) in September, but I don’t think we had less than 200 meals in October,” Brady said. “It’s been so busy. It’s crazy. It’s definitely growing.
Brady said this reflects the fact that many people are likely to have to make difficult choices, such as paying rent to avoid becoming homeless or buying food.
“We are happy to fill this gap,” she said. “I wish we didn’t have to, (but) this gap for more and more people is widening.”
“We don’t just serve the homeless,” Brady said. “We serve the underemployed, those families who are still struggling to make ends meet.
The agency does not currently intend to resume meals indoors with the pandemic still firmly in place. Brady said the physical distancing would mean 30 or 35 people could fit inside the old church at a time, meaning meals would take hours and crowds of people would be lined up outside . “It’s not doable,” she said.
“(But) it seems most of our clientele are happy to take their meals and bring them home.”
Brady pointed out that unlike some emergency food banks where people have to prove they are surviving on low income, meals are handed out at the soup kitchen without questions being asked.
“People don’t need to qualify,” she said. “Everyone is welcome.”
The “Filling the bus” event takes place from 8 am to 4 pm
Niagara Falls City Council agreed on Oct. 26 to waive the normal $ 1,175, including HST, fee the agency would have had to pay to use a city bus for eight hours.
Soup kitchen meals are distributed seven days a week from 11:30 am to 1 pm.
In addition to food donations, donations are accepted at the Soup Kitchen at 4865 St. Lawrence Avenue from 9 am to 11 am and 1 pm to 2 pm. www.nfsoupkitchen.ca/donate.php.