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Shiella, Tom and Kevin ready to assist clients at the Food Bank

By Sarah Chase

Driving downtown London on a weekday morning is very different than it was just three months ago.

What were once bustling streets with folks in cars, busses and on foot, are now quiet streets with only the occasional pedestrian and few cars. The businesses and restaurants are closed, in some cases with boarded windows, quietly waiting for the people to come back. The scene would remind you more of a holiday Sunday morning than a typical workday in the core. However, there is one activity that continues amid the quiet, and that is the ministry of The Food Bank at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Barbara Symington, Manager of St. Paul’s Social Services, explained that on the advice of the Health Unit, the distribution of food could continue, provided distancing precautions are observed. The safety measures put into place include regular handwashing and sanitizing, staff and volunteers using masks and gloves and, of course, ensuring a safe distance between people. The steps of the Cathedral are cordoned off and clients line up in the parking lot at a safe distance. A volunteer then assists, leaving a pre-packaged bundle of items on the step for the client to come forward to collect.

Unfortunately, this process does not incite much conversation or interaction which is greatly missed by both clients and volunteers. There is a fear of uncertainty that is expressed through words and expressions. A fear that many of us are experiencing as we travel through this time in history.

Barb Symington

The Food Bank normally provides food for approximately 650 people a month. The month of March saw a little higher demand due to the uncertainty of the approaching pandemic. The numbers went down a bit in April, when the weather was bad, more people were self-isolating and families had more government help. There has been an increase of people coming who have not used the service before, including seniors, students and international students.

The generous donations from local churches and other community groups continue to help meet the need of those in our community that struggle with food security. Ms. Symington noted that in addition to the nutritious foods that the food bank consistently provides, local farmers and a bakery have donated cartons of eggs, fresh milk, cheese and freshly baked bread as their demands have been reduced due to restaurant closures. The Food Bank is extremely thankful for the plentiful donations and support that it continues to receive from churches and community partners.

A moving encounter for Ms. Symington came early this spring when it was a particularly wintery day. Two women came to request food and were clearly not dressed for the weather. The Food Bank occasionally has clothing available and previously there had been a donation of a couple of ladies’ winter coats. Without a word, the coats were offered to the women who were overcome with gratitude.

The Food Bank also distributes knitted hats and mitts and gloves when they are available.The Food Bank is looking to provide clients with cloth masks as many who come may not have the option of consistently physically distancing, especially while riding on the bus.

During this challenging time when many of the daily events of our life have changed or have had to adapt, to ensure our community’s safety, it is comforting to us all that the church’s ministry of providing for the hungry will adapt and continue.

There is no doubt, that throughout our diocese, country and world, that the outreach of the church, to help our brothers and sisters, is being answered even in the midst of a pandemic, just as it is in London, Ontario at St. Paul’s. To learn more They are also on Facebook (St. Paul’s Social Services) with a link to requested donations.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16

Sarah Chase is a member of Huron Church House staff and a St. Paul’s Social Services volunteer.