Andrew Moss, coordinator of Calgary’s Feed the Hungry program, addresses an audience at St. Mary’s Cathedral detailing the re-launch of the program that was put on hold by the pandemic. Photo courtesy Feed the Hungry

Feed the Hungry transitions out of pandemic

  • September 25, 2022

Calgary’s Feed the Hungry program will make its return to sit-down meals for those in need beginning Thanksgiving weekend, more than two years after it was turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be a time of transition for the program. Autumn and winter will be devoted to figuring out the “new normal.” The next several months are classified as a “transition launch” to prepare for a revitalized strategic launch for Feed the Hungry — sit-down meals that have been hosted 48 weeks a year since its 1993 inception — in spring 2023. 

“The donors and volunteers, including Bishop (William) McGrattan, have requested we resume the sit-down service to offer friendship, charity, hospitality and service,” said Feed the Hungry coordinator Andrew Moss. “But going forward we have to be mindful of the present realities with what took place with COVID, and also what is taking place in the City of Calgary.”

“Anytime we go through a crisis, we are changed,” said McGrattan, “either good or bad.”

McGrattan was one of several speakers who addressed a crowd of over 150 earlier this month at St. Mary’s Cathedral in previewing the program’s return. The bishop said the post-pandemic operation of these meals on behalf of the impoverished and marginalized will not magically revert to 2019 form.

But allowing Feed the Hungry to be a program casualty of the pandemic was not an option, said McGrattan.

“The easiest decision because of the circumstances could have been just to cancel the program. My decision is that we need as Christians to reach out and provide for those people who are disadvantaged. That is core to our Gospel — we help people who are in need.”

Moss cited a recent Calgary Herald story detailing how soaring inflation, and dips in donations and sponsorship support due to pandemic pressure, is harming the food program at the local Mustard Seed shelter. Meanwhile, the cost of meals “jumped this year to an average of $5.38, up from $3.51, after suppliers in both Alberta and British Columbia upped their prices.”

With this economic terrain in mind, Moss said Feed the Hungry is trying to develop a cost-effective, efficient framework to enable the program to enjoy many more years of longevity, and devise a plan to attract more sponsorships. He adds these transition months will also provide an opportunity to complete a comprehensive strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis.

Step one of this process is hosting a sit-down meal on Oct. 9 — the first since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. Three separate sittings of 120 people will dine that day. One large sitting of over 500 was the norm pre-pandemic, but the three-slot approach was deemed appropriate for easing back into a groove and being considerate to participants who desire continued social distancing. Take-home bagged lunches will be given to the overflow crowd.

Demand is projected to be high for these meals. According to statistics shared during the presentation, over 29,251 food care packages were delivered to Calgarians during the pandemic. Feed the Hungry tabulated 13,567 individual customers in 2021, compared to the 12,500 served in 2020. Executing this high level of service during the pandemic required the efforts of 548 volunteers working a combined 822 volunteer hours.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.