Christmas dinner was served a few weeks early in Lower Sackville, N.S., on Monday evening.
Freedom Kitchen has been providing warm meals from a food truck to the community’s low-income families, youths and residents in the parking lot of the Sackville Public Library every Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. since Oct. 3. Despite the freezing rain, dozens of people showed up hungry and ready to eat.
“It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time,” Rainie Murphy, a co-chair of Freedom Kitchen, told CBC News on Monday. “It sucks that they really need this, but it’s amazing that we’re here to provide it for them.”
“It’s horrible that they’re out, they’re hungry, they’re cold. We come out here for two hours every week and we get cold — big deal. This is what they have to do day in and day out,” added Tara Forhan, co-chair of Freedom Kitchen.
Freedom Kitchen started as a volunteer initiative at Knox United Church in Lower Sackville.
Murphy said they moved to using a food truck because some people aren’t comfortable in a church environment. She said the project took nearly two years to launch.
The project has become a true community initiative.
Since starting, the group has not had to buy any meat because Bowlin Farms Doggie Adventures in Lower Sackville has donated it. The food truck belongs to the Salvation Army. On Monday, Fully Loaded Jacket Potato brought out its food truck to help.
Hot meals are served every week.
“Everyone calls it a soup truck, it is not a soup truck,” Murphy said.
On Monday, it was a full turkey dinner with cupcakes for dessert. In the past, they’ve done goulash, tacos and stews.
“We’ve got six to eight people in our kitchen at Knox United Church spending six hours cooking full, homemade meals that we get to serve on this truck,” added Forhan.
The reason Christmas dinner was served so early in December had to do with logistics, Murphy said.
The fewest number of people coming out for dinner was 49 during a holiday, but Murphy said they usually get around 158 people, so an early Christmas dinner makes more sense. The food truck will operate until the last Monday in April.
Michael Ross has donated to the food truck, volunteered on it and been fed by it. He said it feels good to help out.
“Food and stuff gets expensive in the store, it gets higher and you’re on a tight budget so you only can afford so much,” Ross said.
In addition to the Christmas dinner, Monday marked the first night of the Freedom Kitchen Closet where people could pick up clothing donations.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, about a dozen young people were first to go into the trailer and each picked up sweaters.
Gary Shea, owner of Cars R Us, donated the trailer.
“There are a lot of people at a low income and their pensions and their cheques are not enough to cover the rent so they go without food, they go without clothing and some of them are homeless here in Sackville,” Shea said.
“And as a community we have to help out, we all have to get involved and we have to put a stop to it.”
Lizzie Hanlon helps out at the Den, a youth space in Lower Sackville, located in the lower level of the library.
“There are some people who can’t get all this stuff and it’s really nice for people who don’t have these kind of things, who can’t afford them to know they can come here and get it,” Hanlon said.