Community groups step up so St. Thomas, Ont. soup kitchen operators can enjoy much needed vacation

The operators of a well known soup kitchen in St. Thomas are getting a much deserved vacation, but it doesn’t mean those they help are going without.

About 20 different organizations and local churches have stepped up to fill the void so the folks from The Grace Cafe on Talbot Street in the city’s downtown can take a break.

Grace Cafe in St. Thomas, Ont. on July 6, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

The group, St. Thomas Food Providers Network, is using the Horton Street Farmers Market space to serve hot meals Monday to Friday this week, and send people home with bags of food.

Steph Manary could be found in line Tuesday. She said she learned of the initiative from a notice in her apartment building.

"It’s kind of hard for people to actually come out and say that they need help,” she said. “So it’s nice to see the community come together and provide that.”

Organizers say the initiative is not just for clients of the Grace Cafe or those living rough. Co-coordinator Cathy Grondin said they’re trying to help out anyone experiencing food insecurity.

“And the people that are coming here to eat are truly the people that need to come here. It’s obvious that they need some support around food, and just life in general, so we’re happy to be here.”

Cathy Grondin (L) and Jennifer Paul-O'Donnell (R) in St. Thomas, Ont. on July 6, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

Brandon Tasher stopped in for a hot lunch. He said he’s grateful for a bite to eat. “I’m glad there’s a program so everyone can get food, and they can’t afford to go out and buy food.”

“Even a two parent family has minimum wage paying jobs. It’s hard to make ends meet,” said co-coordinator Jennifer Paul- O’Donnel. “You can’t pay your rent or pay for your housing, as well as buy good food for your children. It’s a huge issue. And sometimes those families really lose out in the big picture.”

Meals are served every day through Friday this week, from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Grace Cafe reopens Saturday.