‘Dinner is back on, baby!’: Arnprior restaurants step up to save Christmas meals

ARNPRIOR, ONT. — Arnprior restaurants are stepping up to help with Christmas meal deliveries that were in jeopardy because of health and safety concerns.

Community volunteer Darren Wood was working to put together more than 200 Christmas meals for those in need around Arnprior, but the local health unit stopped it. The Renfrew County and District Health Unit said that because the meals were being prepared in unlicensed kitchens they could put people at risk.

“The main sticking point was that the main part of the meal, the turkeys, were cooked by myself and volunteers in our homes, as opposed to in an inspected kitchen,” Wood told CTV News on Wednesday. “This is how it’s been done, though, for the last 12 years.”

After his story aired, he says local restaurateurs came forward to offer their inspected kitchens.

A post on the Arnprior Community Christmas Dinner Facebook page says PJ’s Restaurant will help with preparing 200 meals that will be delivered next week.

“The Christmas meal list will be fulfilled 100 per cent,” the post says.

But it’s not just PJ’s that is stepping up. A combined 55 meals will be provided by Jim’s Restaurant, Valley Roots, Mighty Fine Bakery, and the Antrim Truck Stop to those most in need as soon as possible.

Acting Medical Officer of Health for Renfrew County and District Health Unit Dr. Robert Cushman told CTV News on Thursday that Wood’s and his volunteers’ hearts are in the right place, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, extra precautions are needed.

“I think the problem here is they have a heart of gold, but when you’re preparing 20 turkeys for over 200 people you have to be very careful, and it’s not just because of COVID,” he said. “Turkeys are not easy to cook. Cooking 20 of them is a challenge. A turkey is associated with salmonella and food poisoning, so you have be very careful. The last thing we wanted was a food outbreak.”

Dr. Cushman also said homemade meals are not permitted in hospitals or long-term care homes right now because of the pandemic.

Here is a list of businesses stepping up to help this Christmas.

  • PJ’s Restaurant: 200 meals by December 30th
  • Valley Roots: 15 meals
  • Antrim Truck Stop: 20 meals
  • Jim’s Restaurant: 15 meals
  • Mighty Fine Bakery: 5 meals

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