OTTAWA — The Ottawa Mission says demand for its services is soaring as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The need for daily meals has nearly doubled, and it could go even higher.
For an organization that has served Ottawa for 115 years, this last year will go down in history.
“This past year has been exceptional because it’s been a year where we fought though the pandemic and still continue to do so,” said Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley.
The pandemic put unprecedented demand on their services, especially when it came to feeding the hungry.
No one has been busier than Executive Chef Ric Watson, who didn’t miss a meal throughout the whole pandemic.
“Before COVID-19, we were 1,400 meals a day. When COVID hit, our meals, and even currently, are about 2,600 meals a day,” says Watson. “We decided that we were going to open the garage door and we would hand out bags and in each bag would have three meals because that’s what our clients are used to. It would be one hot meal and two cold meals.”
The Misson’s annual report reveals how the pandemic forced a change in the way they support their clients in every way.
“Meals, shelter, clothing; all of those things during pandemic times, that’s been our biggest challenge this past year and a half,” says Tilley, “but we’ve risen to the challenge and continued to provide services.”
Even through a growing housing crisis, the mission found homes for 144 clients.
A donated food truck from Pelican Seafood Market and Grill owner Jim Foster allowed the Mission to deliver meals across the city.
“It was one of those things where I walked in every day, and we had it sitting at the back door, and it’s a big truck. And you know, it kind of built on us; it just felt really bad having it sitting there,” said Foster. “I said, ‘Hey chef, is there any way you could foresee this working for you guys?’ And they came back really quickly and they were super excited.”
The food truck changed everything for the Ottawa Mission.
“To date, with that food truck, we’ve served over 150,000 meals,” said Watson. “That truck goes to different communities in Ottawa; 19, actually, in a week.”
In total, 720,000 meals were served in the last fiscal year and up to one million is estimated for the next.
“Certainly, here in Ottawa, we’re seeing great community support to help us get through this,” said Tilley, “whether it’s from Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Inner City Health, or our donors. We’ll carry on and deliver services to this vulnerable population the best we can.”
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