The Salvation Army in Nanaimo is cutting back the hours of its meal program even as the demand for meals continues to surge.
At the Salvation Army’s New Hope Centre on Monday, there was a line-up for brunch, one of two meals it serves the street population daily.
“They feed a lot of people,” Wolf Chalifoux, who sometimes eats at the centre, told CHEK News. “It’s better than any other place. Nothing’s as good as the Salvation Army.”
And the demand for meals has seen dramatic growth during the past two years.
In 2019, the Salvation Army served just under 50,000 meals to the street population in Nanaimo. By 2020, that number jumped to more than 70,000, and this year, that number will be eclipsed.
“Based on the number of meals served so far, we’re looking at almost 90,000 meals for 2022, so the need and the service we provide is just growing each and every year and that doesn’t include the clients that are in our care,” said Sheldon Feener, the Salvation Army’s area commander for Social Mission.
The in-care clients account for nearly an additional 66,000 meals a year. But despite that demand, the Salvation Army is going to adjust and cut back the hours the afternoon meal program is available in Nanaimo from two to one.
The non-profit says it’s not related to a budgetary concern.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any reduction in service. I think people are still going to come and we’re going to feed just as many people. We’re just going to shorten the time a little bit to give our staff more time to cook those meals, to clean up the area a little bit more,” said Feener.
One person who has meals at the New Hope Centre says hours should not be cut back.
“It’s hard when you’re on the street to keep any kind of agenda because there’s so little resources in Nanaimo, so the resources that are here, they shouldn’t be cutting hours back,” said Ron Davis. “They should be moving them forward.”
The Salvation Army says it’s in the process of expanding its Nanaimo building which will improve its abilities.
“In the end, we’re going to be able to reach more and make those services even better,” added Feener.
For those wanting to help the Salvation Army, CHEK’s 29th annual Christmas Drive-Thru is coming up on Dec. 2.