IThe executive director of Romero House estimates demand has grown by about 25 per cent. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Province's soup kitchens seeing larger demand, fewer people to help

Romero House in Saint John has served over 30,000 meals since province-wide shutdowns began in March

Soup kitchens in the province are seeing an increase in the number of people served over the past few months, likely due to financial strain caused by COVID-19.

 

The executive director of Romero House, a soup kitchen in Saint John, said demand has grown by 25 per cent.

Evelyn McNulty said before COVID during a busy day they'd serve 250 meals but now that's what an average day looks like. 

When they started serving from a take-out window in March and not allowing clients inside, the decision was made to send home all the volunteers for their safety, leaving them with less help during the increase. 

We've had some really terrific days and we've had some really hard days, trust me.- Evelyn McNulty

"That left us with nine people who decided that we would be on a ship together, sink or swim we weren't getting off," she told Information Morning Saint John.

 

They've served over 30,000 meals since the COVID-19 shutdowns started.

"We've had some really terrific days and we've had some really hard days, trust me."

 

McNulty said they're now bringing volunteers back into the picture.

The executive director of the Fredericton Community Kitchen said they also cut back on volunteers due to safety concerns and have been operating with only a small number of volunteers. 

"We only have a couple of volunteers and that's a huge change because usually we'd have between 20 to 25 people on a daily basis," Cassandra Blackmore said.

Both kitchens are seeing new faces on a regular basis. 

"Every single day I see somebody who, even when they approach the window, they don't know what to do because they've never been here before, which is really disturbing to people who have lost their job or just aren't making ends meet anymore," said McNulty. 

A reassurance 

Even during the busiest of times McNulty has enjoyed reassuring people that the kitchen will always be there for them. 

"I've seen a lot of fear from folks that just need somebody to say, 'see you tomorrow'." 

McNulty said Romero house is in desperate need of donations of water and other beverages. 

Fredericton Community Kitchen is dealing with cash losses after having to cancel their fundraiser. 

 

"We just don't really know when we'll be able to resume fundraising activities," said Blackmore.

Blackmore said, while the past few months have been tiring, she just wants people to know the kitchen is there to help.

"Despite all the challenges we're still here, we're still feeding Fredericton's hungry and we're very thankful for the support we've had."

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