A program to supply hot lunches for the homeless – and others undergoing economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic – received a formal launch in White Rock’s uptown area last week.
Some 18 recipients arrived during the noon hour on May 21 to pick up the the brown-bagged chicken meals prepared by the Red Rose Restaurant and distributed adjacent to the White Rock Players Club mural and the parking lot at Russell Avenue and Johnston Road.
Sponsored by the White Rock Rotary Club, in collaboration with Peninsula United Church’s Rev. Joan McMurtry and the City of White Rock, the Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday program joins a Wednesday lunch already distributed at the site by Peace Portal Alliance.
Among those on hand for the launch were McMurtry, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and recreation and culture director Eric Stepura, White Rock Rotary president Mauricio Browne de Paula, lunch program co-chairs Raj Rajogopal, Monique Husslage, Gordy Sangha, community volunteer Moti Bali and Red Rose Restaurant’s Mike Thind (other food for the program is also provided by Seriously Good Catering).
“We just want to do things to help the community,” Thind explained, adding that his restaurant had prepared 20 meals for the launch, based on projected participation.
Browne de Paula told Peace Arch News the club’s commitment to hot lunches is funded by donations from members, since regular fundraising activities have been curtailed by the pandemic.
“We’re very grateful that the restaurants are providing the lunches to us at $5 per meal, which is basically at cost,” he said.
McMurtry explained that she had been seeking some way to fill in for local faith groups’ usual meal programs, which have been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis.
“All the community dinners are gone,” she said, noting that organizers had been forced to shut down, because of health restrictions and also because many of those providing the meals were themselves seniors at higher risk for infection.
“But people were relying on those dinners to help them get through the week.”
In response to the need, Peace Portal began its Wednesday program several weeks ago, McMurtry said.
“And I’m very glad that the White Rock Rotary Club has stepped up to provide this for the rest of the week.”
The meal distribution programs, which emphasize pick-up of lunches and social distancing, can’t fully replace the community dinners, she pointed out.
“We can provide nutritious food, but the community fellowship part, that’s what we can’t provide here,” she said.
“And we have found that some people just aren’t ready yet to leave their homes and come out to get a lunch.”
But McMurtry said she is hopeful that numbers of recipients will grow, as word spreads of the free lunch distribution and more of those in need will access it.