It's an average day at the Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown. The tables are full, and there's a steady line of people waiting for meal trays.
Staff and volunteers serve between 85 and 120 people per meal, says general manager Mike MacDonald.
"I would love to see the day that there's no need for a soup kitchen or a food bank," he said.
"Unfortunately, I don't see that day coming any time soon."
And in the last five years, the number of young people using the soup kitchen has "doubled or tripled," MacDonald said.
Before, staff would only see a few young people in a normal day, MacDonald said, but now that number is closer to 15 regulars who are likely in their 20s.
Families with young children
Among those regulars are a couple families with young children, some bringing in strollers.
"These parents are really looking out for the best thing for their kids in accessing that nutritious meal," he said.
Tammy MacKinnon, who became manager of the soup kitchen in December 2016, said she was surprised at the number of meals the kitchen continues to serve.
"I don't see the numbers going down, that's for sure," she said.
The kitchen serves a wide range of people in vulnerable situations — many of whom are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and poverty, MacKinnon said.
"I think the most important thing is for people to remember that everyone is human here," she said.
"Yes some of them panhandle, yes some of them are homeless, yes some of them are addicts, but they're all humans, and every single one of them deserve respect and dignity."
MacKinnon stressed the soup kitchen is not just somewhere to get food — it's a place to feel accepted. Staff and volunteers try to get to know people, she said, taking time to go around to the tables and chat with clients.
"We've really tried to build a relationship with people here," she said. "I think the biggest need here is a place for people to come and feel that they have somewhere to go and be with other people."
James Cleveland said he comes to the soup kitchen when he's having a rough time between jobs.
"It's a good place to come," he said.
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