Supporting neighbours in need: Walking for the Centretown Emergency Food Centre

Volunteers photo by Erin Wassinkby P. Marsden-Dole and Kristine Burr

If you are hungry or on a limited budget in central Ottawa, chances are that you are already familiar with the Emergency Food Centre, located at 507 Bank Street in the basement of Centretown United Church.

The Food Centre, the main project of the Centretown Churches Social Action Committee (CCSAC), serves people living in the central part of the city. It has been in operation since 1978 and, sadly, there is no risk that the need for its services will disappear anytime soon.

Last October a lively crowd turned out on a sunny Sunday afternoon to participate in a comfortable fall walk-a-thon that highlighted the need for greater food security in central Ottawa. In total, over 400 people contributed funds or participated in the walk that day, with over $13,000 raised for our local food bank.

Several Centretown churches are members of CCSAC, and a number of local residents volunteer regularly at the Emergency Food Centre.

Plans are underway for another Walk for the Centre this October.

In recent years, the number of people accessing the Food Centre has increased, partly because of added emergency shelters in the catchment area and temporary housing in Centretown for government- assisted refugees.

The Food Centre receives support yearly from member churches and the City, and food donations from the Food Bank. In 2016, it spent $100,000 over and above these contributions, making fundraising essential. Food drives in local grocery stores, schools and funding from generous individuals provide valuable support.

As Kerry Kaiser, the Food Centre coordinator, says, “We rely on the generous support of many in the community, as well as the help of the 90-plus wonderful volunteers who keep the shelves stocked and serve our clients four days a week.”

The Food Centre also connects clients to other services available in the city.

With their fundraising challenges continuing, CCSAC is mounting another Walk for the Centre. This year’s walk will take place on Sunday, October 15, and will once again offer a shorter walk to Parliament Hill, as well as a longer 3.5-km walk along the beautiful Rideau Canal. Last year’s walk was a great hit, as it proved to be an excellent way to enjoy the fall colours. Both walks will start and end at City Hall. Registration will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Councillor Catherine McKenney has again agreed to open the event, and several local musicians have already offered to provide entertainment before and after the walk. Further information is available at the CCSAC website (www.centretownchurches.org).

Walk-a-thon organizer Elizabeth Kent says, “This is really about raising awareness of the immediate needs of many in our community. We welcome walkers of all ages to come and support the Food Centre and our neighbours in central Ottawa.” Organizers encourage residents of Centretown to come out for a good cause, with walkers who can put together a team, whether it is students, neighbours, church groups or the local hockey team.

Remember the date: October 15, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. for a 2:00 p.m. start!