How Charlottetown's soup kitchen is dealing with a surge in demand

·2 min read

The Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown is now providing about 4,000 meals a month, up from fewer than 3,000 at the beginning of the year.

Demand at the soup kitchen is up by about 21 per cent this year over the same time period in 2019, and has risen by about nine per cent at the Upper Room Food Ministry's food bank, the organization is reporting.

The soup kitchen switched to offering takeout meals rather than dining in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials believe that has increased demand.

"There was a lot of people who wouldn't ordinarily come here for one reason or another. They wouldn't want to come and sit in and eat a meal," says soup kitchen manager Lorraine Goley.

As a result, organizers have been seeing a lot of new clients.

"Since we've been doing the takeout, it has become a lot more popular, because a lot of people will come here and one person will come and get meals for the whole family, whereas before they wouldn't bring their whole family here," she said.

'Still a lot of stigma'

The soup kitchen has also been using more food, Goley said, because they aren't sure how many people will come seeking takeout meals.

"One meal we could have 40 people coming in, the very next meal we could have 85," she said. "So we can't tell how many to be cooking for. Especially just in recent months, we've been doubling the food that we've been cooking so it doesn't run out."

They do use up their leftovers in subsequent meals, she noted.

An average night recently sees about 100 meals served.

There is still a lot of stigma surrounding coming in here. - Lorraine Goley

Goley said some people don't enjoy the crowd at the soup kitchen, and others have told her they prefer eating the takeout meals in the comfort of their own homes.

"There is still a lot of stigma surrounding coming in here," Goley added.

Goley plans to reintroduce limited dining in at the soup kitchen in early November, but will continue to make takeout available indefinitely since it has been so popular. That will help meet demand and also ensure physical distancing under COVID-19 protocols, she said.

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