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Church keeps dinner on the table during the pandemic

In April 2020, All Saints' Anglican Church gave away 65 take-out bags, and in May 2021, they gave away 224

All Saints’ Church has been feeding the community for years, the table piled higher in the pandemic

With a sit-down dinner off the table, the church came up with other ways of getting food to people who needed it.

Susan Scouten is the food coordinator at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Collingwood, and is committed to doing everything possible to provide food security to people in the community. 

“There is such a high need for food,” said Scouten. “Need comes in all sorts of different forms.”

Prior to the pandemic, Scouten was in charge of organizing a monthly Friendship Dinner hosted by the church in its parish hall. The buffet-style dinners would serve anywhere between 100-125 people on a monthly basis, for free and run completely by volunteers. 

“The dinner has been happening for many years before me and hopefully will continue for many years to come,” said Scouten. 

When the global COVID-19 pandemic closed the church last spring, Scouten was quick to shift gears into a take-out style offering. After being temporarily laid off from her full-time job, she worked to expand the church program to weekly meal service. The first week the program was offered, in April of 2020, Scouten and her team of volunteers put together 65 take-out bags for people in the community. 

This past month, that number reached 224. 

“It just grew and grew and grew,” said Scouten.

When lockdowns temporarily lifted last summer, and volunteers who had been laid off were asked to return to work, the church had no choice but to switch the Friendship Dinners back to monthly. 

However, the lack of food security in Collingwood remained. So Scouten approached Kathleen Wilkinson, people’s warden at All Saints', to develop a new program, and the Entrees-to-Go program was born. 

“Outreach has always been a significant part of what we do at the church. Susan’s program has always been significant. But the pandemic just made us realize in the community and within the church the food scarcity and how important the outreach really is,” said Wilkinson.  

The church continues to offer its Friendship Dinner on the second Wednesday of every month. It is open to anyone in the community of Collingwood and is prepared as a full take-out meal, with dessert included and all. The dinners can be picked up outside the church between 5-6 p.m on the respective Wednesday. Non-contact delivery is also available. 

“That’s a fun day,” said Scouten. “They all line up outside, the minister even comes and greets the people.” 

The Entrees-to-Go program, on the other hand, is available on an ongoing basis. The entrees are frozen and are typically not a full meal, but a main course that can be delivered or picked up from the church during select times. Participants get two entrees per person, per week. Scouten emails the menu out every Tuesday, with dinner options ranging from cabbage rolls on rice, cannelloni, and lasagna, to hamburgers and veggie burgers on a brioche bun. 

Both dinners are 100 per cent donation-based and completely free of charge for recipients. 

The church was also able to develop a partnership with Cobs Bread, with the local shop donating everything they have left on Friday night. 

“If you want to know where I am on a Friday night, that’s where. Collecting an extraordinarily amazing amount of food,” said Scouten. 

The church also has access to a community garden, where they source the majority of their fresh produce. 

Despite limits on how many volunteers can be present at the church at any given time, Scouten has organized everything to a tee, and never has a lack of food or volunteers. 

“I run an excellent program and people will volunteer if they walk into something that is well organized,” said Scouten. 

“We are so proud,” added Wilkinson. “Just to know people have access to a meal every week. The community is amazing in that way.”

As restrictions once again start to ease, both women are excited to be able to host the community back in the parish hall for the Friendship Dinners in-person soon. However, they know a need will still exist, and plan to continue offering take out dinners as well. 

“We are now consistently giving out over 200 take out bags. So what happens when we open up the church? Those people will still be in need of food,” said Wilkinson. “The need is enormous. The pandemic just made us that much more aware.”

“As long as there is need in our community, All Saints' Church will help with food insecurity. That is my promise,” added Scouten. 

For more information, email Scouten at [email protected] or call the Church office at 705-445-3841.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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