Every day Feed Ontario unites industry partners, and local communities with our network of food banks to help ensure families and individuals across Ontario have access to the fresh healthy food they need, year round.
To ensure we’re getting food all over the province as quickly and effectively as possible, Feed Ontario uses a hub-and-spoke model . We work with 132 direct member food banks, who serve an additional 1,100 affiliate emergency-food relief agencies including school breakfast clubs, meal programs, shelters, and food pantries.
One such agency is the Dew Drop Inn. As you walk into the doors of the Dew Drop Inn, a feeling of warmth and compassion envelopes you. Everyone is welcome in this space and no one leaves hungry.
The Dew Drop Inn, located in Thunder Bay, ON, is more than a soup kitchen. It is a place where people feel safe. It is a place that is depended on. It is a place where anyone, absolutely anyone, can get a nutritious meal 365 days a year.
Community is at the heart of what the Dew Drop accomplishes on a daily basis. Executive Director, Michael Quibell, acknowledges that their small and mighty team of 7 hired staff couldn’t do what they do without support. Afterall, feeding up to 400 people a day is certainly no task that can be done without help.
Feed Ontario’s direct member in Thunder Bay, the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA), is credited for providing the Dew Drop Inn with fresh produce, healthy proteins and important pantry staples. The RFDA’s Chef Tanner, also lends a hand and cooks up delicious treats for the Dew Drop’s visitors including Rib dinners, Turkey with all the trimmings, and even gourmet items such as Bison Tourtiere.
In the spirit of working together towards a common shared goal, partnerships are formed with countless other local organizations in the city. Fundraisers can be a shared, collaborative effort. Goods are shared with other not-for-profit organizations, ensuring that there is no waste when an item is in abundance. Community gardens share their colorful and delicious bounty. The phone is on and ready to be called if and when an agency requires their help. They want to help.
The Dew Drop Inn is lucky to have over 300 regular volunteers that come through their doors to help with anything from sandwich making, to sorting donations, to making sure everything is clean and welcoming for their beloved visitors. Linda, the volunteer coordinator, says that volunteers leave the Dew Drop with a sense of pride and camaraderie and it keeps them coming back again and again. Volunteers are loved and appreciated for their time, donations, and energy spent at the Dew Drop.
COVID-19 kept a few volunteers away, but a strong and reliable volunteer network remained, even through the worst of the pandemic. These generous volunteers made it possible to serve 110,565 meals last year to people facing hunger. This was an increase of 20,000 meals over 2019 and 38,000 meals over 2018.
COVID-19 forced the Dew Drop Inn to stop serving their regular sit-down meal and quickly adapt to the changing conditions by providing hot take away meals and bagged lunches in order to keep everyone safe and fed. The added cost of take out containers was an unfortunate necessity during these times, and one that may have to continue due to the increased volume of people that are relying on the kitchen’s services. With the volume of people that are visiting on a daily basis, there just isn’t enough space to feed everyone in a timely manner.
So, who exactly is visiting the Dew Drop Inn every day? What does the face of hunger look like? Hunger looks like the grandfather who lost his wife and doesn’t know how to cook himself meals. Or, the lonely widow who is trying to make her old age pension stretch to the end of the month. Hunger looks like the single parent trying to provide for their children. Hunger doesn’t discriminate and neither does the Dew Drop Inn – there are no questions asked and no one leaves hungry. Everyone who visits is entitled to receive food with respect and dignity.
Michael, like Feed Ontario, wishes that the Dew Drop Inn’s services weren’t needed. He wishes that there weren’t over 15,600 food insecure households in Thunder Bay and hopes that proper supports are put into place for and Senior Citizens and people with disabilities. But for now, the Dew Drop Inn is here to help. For forty years they have helped and they will continue to offer this emergency support to those in need until the root causes of poverty and food insecurity has been addressed. Michael envisions a future as a food hub in Thunder Bay. A welcoming place for people to come, socialize and to obtain the food support they choose and require. He believes he is where he is supposed to be. His passion for his work, volunteers and patrons is what fuels him to lead the Dew Drop Inn – to help feed hungry people.
To learn more about how Feed Ontario and its network of hunger-relief agencies are helping to feed the province, click here.