Soaring food costs have put at risk the Barrie Salvation Army community meal program

The program provides meals twice a day to between 500 and 600 people

Hundreds of people that rely on the Barrie Salvation Army’s community meal program may have to look elsewhere for food.

Major Bruce Shirran, executive director of the Bayside Mission Centre, says soaring food costs have put the program in jeopardy.

The program started as a result of the pandemic. The Salvation Army provided the Busby Centre with about 200 meals a day as part of the motel model for the homeless, which ended in July. But the program has continued, at the Bayside Mission, with takeout meals twice a day.

Shirran says they are serving between 500 and 600 meals a day.

“We are kind of averaging them at around six dollars a meal, so we’re putting out 600 meals a day, and you can do the math, that’s $3,600 a day.”

Shirran says that doesn’t include the in-house meals for people who reside at the shelter.

“We have far exceeded our food services budget, and that leaves us in a dilemma if we can continue the service,” says Shirran. “We know the needs in the community and if we are not here to provide that need, where is it going to come from?”

He is quick to point out that it is not just the homeless that benefit from the program.

“We have low-income working-class people who have to decide between paying their rent and buying food.”

The Bayside Mission receives funding from the County of Simcoe, stakeholders and the community, but with inflation, Shirran says that based on the number of people coming for a meal, the reality is they are still not receiving adequate dollars to continue the program.

Shirran says there are options on the table being considered which include reducing the program to one meal a day and seeing where that ends up.

“Or will we eventually have to discontinue the meals if we don’t have the funding?”

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