CHEK Upside: ‘It’s just beautiful’: Esquimalt volunteers step up to feed community in need

WatchDespite major changes and limited volunteers, the Rainbow Kitchen is serving a record-high amount of meals per day in response to increased demand due to COVID-19.

Though things may look a little different these days, the Rainbow Kitchen’s winning recipe hasn’t changed in Esquimalt.

“Feed those in need, no questions asked,” said Patrick Johnstone, director of the Rainbow Kitchen.

The small non-profit operates like a fully staffed restaurant. Food is donated from grocery stores and individuals, then prepped by a small but dedicated group of volunteers who create hundreds of warm meals a day, Monday to Friday, given to anyone in need.

“So everything’s boxed, everything’s packaged, which is extra time and labour and expense, but it’s worth it to make sure our community has what it needs during this pandemic,” said Johnstone.

The economic effects of COVID-19 caused an all-time high in demand in the Rainbow Kitchen’s 15-year history. Instead of adding volunteers to help with the demand, the Rainbow Kitchen had to minimize staff in order to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Despite the increased workload and obvious health risks, that hasn’t stopped volunteers like Maureen Yip from showing up every shift.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in this country, so that’s what I do it. And luckily, I’m healthy so I can be here,” said Yip, who’s volunteered for three years.

“It’s a family,” said fellow volunteer Giulia Collins. “Be it from the staff, the board, the volunteers, the guests. It’s just beautiful.”

Greg Tupman is a Rainbow Kitchen regular. He’s a low-income senior who says the free meals have been life-changing.

“The rainbow kitchen saves me a ton of money,” said Tupman. “The whole unit is just family-friendly oriented.”

“They treat people like people,” said Ivan Livingstone, another frequent guest of the Rainbow Kitchen.  “We’re their guests, not like we’re a bunch of vagrants or something.”

Whether it’s peeling garlic, cleaning dishes or stirring stew, the volunteers are providing a much-needed lifeline in their community.

“They make this magic happen and we can’t do it without them,” said Johnstone.

The Rainbow Kitchen currently has a full roster of volunteers, however, Johnstone says they are in dire need of food donations. To make a cash or food donation, click here for more information.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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