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Shocking Increases in Hunger Puts Shelter on Track to Serve Almost One Million Meals This Year
April 19 (Ottawa, ON) – As Ottawa has entered its third year of dealing with the ongoing pandemic, The Ottawa Mission announced the addition of a second food truck and 13 new stops to its Mobile Mission Meals program, which started in September 2020, to meet the shocking increase in hunger across the city. This will provide an additional 7,000 meals per week.
“This program continues to experience unprecedented growth in response to the worsening level of hunger in Ottawa due to the continuing pandemic, the lack of affordable housing, and other factors,” stated Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley.
Beginning with one truck which provided 100 meals at each of its five stops back in September 2020, the shelter has now added an additional truck and a further 26 stops across Ottawa serving 14 times the original number of meals. The second truck and the additional 12 stops were added the week prior to Easter and served a full special holiday meal with all the trimmings.
“In 2019, the last Easter meal before the pandemic, the Ottawa Mission served 2,659 Easter meals. Last week, through our shelter and our food truck program, we served 10,084 meals. This is a new record for one of our special meals and four times the number of meals we served for Easter 2019,” noted the Mission’s Director of Food Services Chef Ric Allen-Watson.
“Every single day our truck goes out and people line up to receive the meals they need to survive. People with walkers, in wheelchairs, and with their kids. People who never worried about feeding themselves and their families until Covid-19 come to our truck to survive. Clients have told us that they go hungry, sometimes for days, until our truck comes. Think of that: not eating for an entire day or two, or three, or more. Other clients have told us that our food truck helps them with family dinners since the cost of groceries has risen so much. Think of that: worrying about feeding yourself and your children,” Allen-Watson added.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, The Mission had served just over 520,000 meals annually. Now, into our third year of the pandemic, the Mission will serve almost 1 million meals to people who would otherwise go hungry the equivalent of almost one meal for every person who lives in Ottawa.
The press conference was held in Regina Towers, a building owned by Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), which provides social and affordable housing in Ottawa. OCH Board Chair Councillor Mathieu Fleury noted the importance of the Mission’s food truck program to vulnerable community members across Ottawa. “The pandemic has highlighted the real struggles with access to food among residents. The Ottawa Mission, with its long history in Ottawa, responded positively to emerging needs by investing in its approach, which provides warm meals with Chef Ric’s social enterprise kitchen and food truck. The food truck has demonstrated enormous success by offering 4,000 meals per week. We are happy to see the arrival of the second truck, which will serve 12 new locations – and will serve an additional 3,000 meals per week.”
Ottawa Community Housing CEO Stéphane Giguère confirmed the importance of the shelter’s food truck program to OCH residents in particular, whose residences host several food truck stops per week. “Since September 2020, the Mission Food Truck has provided an invaluable service to tenants living in OCHC communities. We know food insecurity is a real issue – and we are grateful for partners such as the Ottawa Mission who help us meet the diverse needs of 32,000 residents.”
Councillor Theresa Kavanagh, whose ward includes Regina Towers, noted the factors that leave many of her constituents having to choose between paying their rent and feeding themselves and their families. “Ottawa has the highest shortfall for residents receiving Ontario Disability Support Payments and Ontario Works and the poverty line. And for those making minimum wage in Ottawa, 59% have less than $100 left after paying housing and utilities costs each month. Who could live on less than $100 after paying these costs? I couldn’t. And no one else should have to either. I’m grateful to The Mission for establishing this new food truck stop and others in my ward so people here don’t go hungry.”
Terry Nichols, President of Urbandale, a main food truck program sponsor, noted the company’s expanded support for the program. “We believe in building strong communities and value our partnerships. We’re particularly pleased to support The Ottawa Mission, our community’s oldest and largest homeless shelter. As The Mission says, it is more than a shelter. Not only does it provide both emergency support such as food, clothing and shelter, but it also offers programs for people to rebuild their lives. That’s why we decided to support this food truck initiative in 2020 and why we’re especially proud to continue to support it in its expanded format. This initiative has gone and will continue to go a long way go to address hunger in our community and ensure that people who need healthy meals get them.”
Donna Gibson, Commercial Account Manager at RBC, affirmed her organization’s support as well. “The RBC Foundation is proud to support the Ottawa Mission’s food truck program. As a corporate leader, people look to us to step up on issues that demand leadership. By supporting this program, we’re reducing hunger in our community. COVID-19 has brought serious systemic issues to light, including food insecurity. That’s why it’s important to support community partners like the Ottawa Mission, who are taking actions to address these issues.”
Peter Tilley concluded the event by noting the importance of partnerships across sectors while also addressing the roots causes of hunger. “No one should have to go hungry. The Mission is grateful to partner with Ottawa Community Housing, Councillor Kavanagh, and our supporters Urbandale and RBC, to meet the needs of our community for warm and nutritious meals. We also need to address the fact that while we have valued partners such as OCH, over 40% of tenants in Ottawa live in unaffordable housing, and almost 10% live in housing in need of major repairs or unsuitable to their needs. We also need to address the failure of income supports to keep pace with the cost of living, which is rising faster than it has for the past 30 years. We need to expand affordable and appropriate housing options in our community and improve income supports for our most vulnerable community members, as well as look at new programs such as basic income options.”
About The Ottawa Mission
Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving those who are homeless, hungry and lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2020-2021, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 185 men every night and served an average of 1,994 meals every day. The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of its housing department. Visit ottawamission.com to learn more.
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