Every Thursday, a church in Fall River, N.S., lures high school students by the hundreds with the promise of a safe place and a hot Kraft Dinner lunch.
Since 2010, St. John's United Church in Fall River has been hosting the KD Lunch for students at nearby Lockview High School.
Rev. Matthew Fillier said the idea came from two members of the congregation who knew of similar programs at other churches in the Maritimes.
"It was just by word of mouth, really, little bit of advertising, mostly word of mouth and they were getting, like 15 kids one Thursday a month was kind of how this started," he said.
"It's sort of a force out here now, it's kind of a permanent fixture in the community, we're pretty proud of that for sure."
Volunteers now serve between 100 and 250 lunches every Thursday, cooking up about 64 boxes of KD a week.
The lunches have become so popular with students, some have been know to leave class early to secure a spot at the table.
"I love the kids," Fillier said. "One of the gags we have is we kind of look at them, and go, 'So you have a free today do you?'"
Two teams of 10 volunteers rotate weeks. They start around 10:30 a.m. preparing the KD, serving and cleaning.
The night before, teams of volunteers come to set up the church hall for the lunches.
A teacher at nearby Waverley Memorial School pitched it to his sixth grade class as a We Day volunteer project and now they do the setup on Wednesday nights.
More than a meal
Fillier said the lunches are about more than providing a meal.
"I look at it as kind of an outreach, of a safe space," he said.
"Lunchtime can be an interesting time for kids anyway. They're not in class, they can be roaming around in or off campus. There's opportunities there for difficult things to happen, like maybe bullying, peer pressure or whatever."
Word about the lunches has spread to the community outside the high school. Fillier said he's often stopped in the grocery store and given donations of KD.
The congregation helps fund the purchase of KD and dairy needed for the meals. The local Sobeys store also donates and they get a grant from the Cobequid Community Health Board. Community members also donate baked goods and salads.
Grade 11 Lockview High School student Bronwyn Heighton says the students appreciate the hospitality.
"It's just something we do, like a Lockview ritual," she said. "You have to go, it's just what you do."
Eating KD in the pews
Two years ago Fillier said they realized the extent of their popularity. The entire graduating class came for one of the final KD lunches of their high school career.
"There were so many of them, I'm not joking, we ran out of space in the hall and they were eating KD lunch in the pews," Fillier laughed.
At the end of the year the students thank the church with cards, banners and donations of KD.
"The comments are everything from the hilarious, 'Don't tell my mom, but you make better KD than she does,'" Fillier said.
"And then you get comments like, 'I wouldn't have got through this year without Thursday.'"
Even after all these years, students still ask what the catch is, but Fillier said there's no catch.
"As a community we have enough to do this for you. That's it. There is no we're trying to get you to go to church, we're trying to get you to do this or that or get involved in some way, it's simply because we care and we can do this," he said.