Centre is on a mission to provide more than healthy meals in Kamloops
At exactly 12 p.m. on a Monday, the unassuming grey building nestled at the intersection of Cherry Ave. and Laburnum St. in Kamloops, BC opens its doors.
A steady stream of people make their way inside, heading to neatly arranged tables that mimic a restaurant setting. Friendly volunteers warmly welcome the guests and serve up the menu of the day—a freshly prepared, nourishing meal.
This is a typical scenario at Mount Paul Community Food Centre (CFC) every Monday and Thursday. Around 150 people gather together and savor lunch. This community meal welcomes diners to sit on a pre-set table and served with the day’s meal—all free of charge.
“We use food as a vehicle to bring people together. We’re creating a social experience, and hoping to build that sense of community into their lives,” says Dawn Christie, Manager at Mount Paul CFC.
Established in 2017, Mount Paul CFC focuses on food security programming, with the community meal as one of its offerings under the food access initiative. Additionally, they maintain a community pantry for those who miss the scheduled community meal, providing frozen soups and smoothies on weekdays.
The non-profit organization is committed to enhancing access to healthy whole foods. Every Tuesday and Thursday, their affordable produce market opens its doors, where produce can be purchased at a discounted rate.
“Our approach revolves around providing a community resource that promotes whole foods in growing, cooking, sharing and learning. It’s a good way to focus people how to incorporate whole foods into their daily lives,” emphasizes Christie.
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And who powers this organization? About 200 dedicated volunteers and five staff, spanning all ages and contributing two to 10 hours a week to support more than a dozen programs.
In addition to food access programs, Mount Paul CFC also offers food skills and education programs, including classes that cover basic cooking skills, food literacy and gardening.
“People find that this is the place they want come to and once they’re here, they find a vibrant sense of community. They feed off the warm and fuzzy feeling of community involvement. I believe many of our volunteers share the same sentiment, knowing they’re here and giving back to the community,” beams Christie.
Enbridge, through its Fueling Futures program, recently donated $15,000 to Mount Paul CFC to further strengthen its food accessibility programs. This is part of the company’s commitment to invest in communities near its operations.
Like most of the residents in the region, one of the main challenges Mount Paul CFC faces is rising inflation and food costs. But they remain dedicated to their calling, knowing that healthy, whole food is often the first thing that goes off the table when finances are tight.
Christie reminds her community: “Our centre is open to those in need of food access, and we have resources available here. Any community member can access our programs in their food security journey with no associated cost, as many times as they require.”