White Rock Rotary Club president Mauricio Browne de Paula (front right) with other club and community volunteers at the launch of the free hot lunch program at the city parking lot at Russell Avenue and Johnston Road on May 21. (File photo)

White Rock Rotary Club president Mauricio Browne de Paula (front right) with other club and community volunteers at the launch of the free hot lunch program at the city parking lot at Russell Avenue and Johnston Road on May 21. (File photo)

Daily demand for White Rock Rotary, city lunch program surpasses 40

Recipients ‘are very good people… going through some tough times’

A lunch program that launched in May to supply hot midday meals for the homeless and others undergoing economic hardship during the pandemic has been expanded and extended, organizers say.

Rotary Club of White Rock’s Gordy Sangha said Thursday (Jan. 21) that generous donations – including two $10,000 boosts from the Werner and Helga Hoing Foundation – have enabled the city and Rotary to expand their ‘Feed My City’ collaboration from its initial four-days-per-week schedule, as well as continue to meet increasing daily demand.

“When we started it was 20, 25,” Sangha said. “Right now, they’re serving in excess of 40-odd lunches every day – close to 45.”

Set up in the gravel parking lot at the northeast corner of Johnston Road and Russell Avenue, in a temporary serving station built and donated by Premium Fencing, volunteers distribute packaged lunches between noon and 1 p.m. daily.

READ MORE: Serving station helps White Rock Rotary hot meal program

The meals come from Seriously Good Catering on Mondays and Tuesdays, from Red Rose Restaurant on Thursdays and Fridays, from Bamboo Restaurant on Saturdays and from Indian Flavours Restaurant on Sundays, Sangha said. On Wednesdays, Peace Portal Alliance Church distributes sandwiches; an effort that began several weeks prior to the lunch launch.

Participation from the businesses – who are providing the food at a $5-per-meal cost – has been critical, Sangha said.

“Without them, we would not have been successful.”

Fifty-four people were served a “fantastic” meal on Christmas Day, with food donated by Save-On Foods, Sangha added.

The program was not anticipated to be operating past December, he continued. It was started due to the shutdown of many faith-group-organized community lunches due to pandemic-related restrictions. “These people are in need and we cannot abandon them,” Sangha said.

The city has not put an end-date on use of the parking lot as a distribution site, he added, noting many council members have donated their own time and funds to the initiative. A report to the club shared with Peace Arch News notes fundraising efforts by club members Jack Rae and Raj Rajagopal raised more than $50,000 for the project over a six-month period.

Sangha added that even a grateful recipient has donated – twice.

“These are very good people,” Sangha said. “They’re just going through some tough times.”

One woman who has been attending the lunch program four to five times per week since the summer said it has helped her during what has been a difficult time financially. She also appreciates the community feel of it, as well as the opportunity to “get a bit of social time” with others who turn out.

“While we’re waiting for the food, people get to know each other. There’s a spectrum of people that come with different needs – everybody has a story,” she said.

As well, it’s not just drawing people from White Rock, “they’re coming from all over,” she said.

Those who attend do not feel judged, and nor should they be judged, she added.

“Most are there from a fixed-income background, or homeless. We all feel welcome and respected.”

Sangha said donations to help the program continue are always appreciated. Cheques payable to Rotary Club of White Rock may be dropped off during the lunch distribution hour – provided that COVID-19 protocols in place are respected – or mailed to Feed My City, c/o Rotary Club of White Rock, PO Box 75005, 15105 16 Ave., V4A 6G3. E-transfers may be sent to whiterocktreasurer2@gmail.com (using ‘Feed My City’ for the question and ‘whiterock’ for the answer).

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