Nelson’s only soup kitchen has closed, is serving people outside and needs volunteers and donations to survive the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our Daily Bread typically serves 20 to 30 people in the morning and 50 to 70 guests for lunch, according to its manager, Jim Reimer.
The decision to close, Reimer said, has been heartbreaking for those who rely on the organization for nutrition, community and respite from life on the street.
“When I told them we weren’t going to be open, there were people who were crying,” said Reimer.
“Because this is their safe spot. It’s not just food, this is their safe place. So the challenges are if we stay open and just let a few people in at a time, my concern is if a staff member gets COVID-19, the whole operation will shut down.”
The provincial government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people. On Wednesday, the kitchen began serving breakfast outside before handing out to-go containers with lunch at noon.
Reimer said typically the kitchen operates as a self-serve banquet. But now, as he needs more people to package and hand out lunches, Reimer is losing helping hands when he needs them the most.
“We’ve lost volunteers because some of the volunteers who come here are older, elderly and some of them have compromised health issues so they are self-isolating to protect themselves, which I appreciate,” he said.
“But it does leave us with we’re going to need more volunteers or different volunteers than we’ve had in the past.”
Nelson’s Salvation Army branch has also closed its drop-in centre but is providing breakfast to-go at its front door Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, while the food bank is open by appointment only.
Val Sherriff, the Salvation Army’s local program co-ordinator, said food supplies are currently holding up, but that March and April tend to be leaner months for donations in the best of times.
“A couple stores have done food drives in the last little bit for us and that’s helping for sure,” she said.“We’re always looking at needing the protein items, so chunky soups, beans and tuna and chicken or ham or anything like that is always very much appreciated.”
The Nelson Community Food Centre also announced Thursday it was changing its operating hours to Wednesdays, 1 to 5 p.m.
Reimer, meanwhile, has been told by local businesses who have donated food to the soup kitchen that closures may mean that supply begins to dwindle.
Even if there’s food to hand out, the to-go containers now being used will add an extra $500 monthly expense to the kitchen, he said.
Added to that, he said, will be a considerable mental health strain on his clients.
“The most vulnerable of our population, for them to self-isolate is very, very challenging,” he said.
“To me, I can live in my house for two weeks. There’s enough food in my freezer. I’ve got all kinds of resources. But people who are homeless or very poor, they don’t have that. So it’s going to be very difficult.”
If you would like to volunteer with Our Daily Bread, contact Reimer at email@example.com. Financial donations can be made online at kootenaychristianfellowship.com.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated Salvation Army had stopped serving breakfast. That is not the case, although it is no longer happening inside the building.