A new community feeding program operated by The Salvation Army offers a hot meal every day of the week.
by Roxanne Hooper
There’s a new food security team in town, and they’re making it their job to feed upwards of 100 disadvantaged Langley residents every day of every week.
It’s a team of staff and volunteers working together at the new Gateway of Hope homeless shelter and outreach centre, and each day they’re providing a lunch or dinner for members of the community from the centre’s new, state-of-the-art commercial kitchen.
In addition to providing three meals a day for 30 clients in the Gateway’s emergency shelter, the Salvation Army-run facility also operates a community feeding program that sees 85 to 103 members of the community come in for a hot meal, explained Major George Perkin.
Gateway of Hope opened on the Langley Bypass last December, and expanded its services over the subsequent months.
The community feeding program was started up in January, and provides one hot meal a day: lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., and dinners Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at 5 p.m.
“Everyone is welcome,” Perkin said, emphasizing that it’s not only Langley’s homeless who attend. He noted that seniors, working poor, even families have frequented the meal program since its inception.
Lunches always consist of a home-cooked soup and bun, homemade sandwiches, and desserts, while the full course dinners always feature chicken, fish, steak, pork, and some kind of roast every Sunday.
It’s an excellent meal, and a good variety of food, said Fred Herbert, a resident of the Gateway’s transitional housing program who has been volunteering in the kitchen for the past two months.
“It’s not just food slopped on a plate,” Herbert told the Langley Advance, as he donned a pair of food safe gloves and buttered a bag of buns in preparation for a Tuesday night dinner.
“It’s great food, prepared nicely, presented well, and always delicious,” he said, pointing over fellow volunteer Darlene Koreen who was making a cabbage and apple salad, and to culinary chef Val Andrews who was preparing racks of orange-ginger glazed chicken for that evening’s feast.
Perkin explained that the community meal program is a key component in the Gateway’s continuum of care, but added that it is greatly dependent on the public’s generosity.
While there are one or two staff chefs working in the kitchen at any given time, the meal program (like many programs in the centre) relies on five to eight volunteers donating four-hours out of their day to make everything run smoothly.
As well, while Gateway receives funding from the provincial government to cover the cost of meals (and more) for the emergency shelter and transitional housing program, Perkin said all expenses associated with the community meal program are borne by the Salvation Army.
At an average cost of $6 per dinner, and $4 per lunch, Perkin estimates it costs about $400 a day, or $12,000 a month to run the food program. And that money, he said, comes from the annual Salvation Army Christmas kettle program, fundraising events, and private donations.
But the cost is worth it, Perkin said, noting that it provides more than just a hot, nutritious meal to the community’s homeless and others who can’t afford it.
“This is my dream job, to help homeless people and others in need, and comfort them with good food… Just to love them, nothing pleases me more than giving them a homecooked meal, and they’re always so thankful for it,” said Andrews, who joined the Gateway staff in November.
The Langley resident had been watching the erection of the shelter for months, and frequently wondered aloud to her daughters if the facility would need cooks.
“And in the past few months, this dream job has turned into a second family to me, just the closeness… just to know them individually… we’re there to more than just to cook for them, we’re there to develop friendships,” she said, noting that she and other kitchen staff and volunteers always take time out to sit down and eat with the members of the community who come in.
“It looks good if the chef eats it too,” Andrews said, noting the program runs on a six-week menu, meaning a meal is not repeated any time in that window, ensuring a good and nutritious variety to the visitors.
For more about the community meal program, or other services at the Gateway of Hope, call 604-514-7375, visit www.gatewayofhope.ca, or drop-in at 5787 Langley Bypass.