November 4th 2020. City Council also voted unanimously on November 3rd to award $39,000 to local Christian charity Lionhearts Inc. The funds will help them move their community meal program into Stages Night Club for the next six months.
From the start of the pandemic, Lionhearts Inc. has been providing free meal packages every day to those in need,” said a report from City CAO Lanie Hurdle, presented to Council on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. “To date they have provided over 138,000 meals. While operating this program outside in a park setting has worked well through the summer, they now need to find a safe, accessible, indoor option.”
Hurdle noted that Lionhearts had performed an extensive search for a location in the city before reaching an agreement with Stages Night Club. City staff are recommending the financial contribution to offset Lionheart’s operating costs for a six month period. The supportive funding will come from the City’s Social Services Relief Fund. The Fund currently has a balance of $348,102, due to be fully allocated by Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
In addition to the Lionhearts meal program, Stages will also take in Kingston Street Mission’s nightly drop-in program. For over seven years, this program has operated in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Hall, which reportedly is not available this winter. The drop-in program provides a warm place out of the cold, refreshments, a social venue, free access to clothing and toiletries, and more. It runs nightly between October and April each year, from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with volunteers on site each night.
“This partnership will ensure continued delivery of these important services through the winter months,” Hurdle said.
Demand for meal support up dramatically
Bhavana Varma, President and CEO of the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFLA), gave a delegation at the beginning of Council’s meeting. She noted that demand on local food programs has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic.
“In the region we’ve gone from 500, 600 meals a week to 1,400 to 1,800 meals per day, seven days a week,” she said.
Local supportive agencies such as Loving Spoonful, St. Vincent de Paul and Martha’s Table had to adapt overnight starting in mid-March, she said, introducing safety measures while simultaneously responding to the increased need.
Varma said food insecurity and the demand for food programs are pervasive, right across Canada. She also noted that they are affecting every part of the Kingston community including post-secondary students at St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University.
Varma strongly supported City staff’s recommendation to help Lionhearts Inc. relocate their meal program to Stages Night Club.
“I cannot say enough about how we could not have managed this without Lionhearts, and the amount of meals they’ve been providing,” she said. “I know that Council has received an excellent report from staff and I just want to make sure everyone knows that this is critical for our food system.”
Story by Samantha Butler Hassan of The Kingstonist for the Local Journalism Initiative