Dartmouth volunteers prepare Easter feast for 100 people

There's enough ham, potatoes and carrots at Margaret's House in Dartmouth, N.S., to feed 100 people on Easter Sunday, but the organization's co-ordinator says food security is about more than access to a hot meal.

Margaret's House co-ordinator says food security is also about suitable housing

Volunteers Jenna Leadbetter and Anne MacDonald prepare take-out meals at Margaret's House on Easter Sunday. (Emma Smith/CBC)

There's enough ham, potatoes and carrots at Margaret's House in Dartmouth, N.S., to feed 100 people on Easter Sunday, but the organization's co-ordinator says food security is about more than access to a hot meal.

Many of the adults who show up regularly at the cosy building on the corner of Wentworth and Ochterloney streets live in rooming houses in Halifax and Dartmouth, said Karen Goudie.

"And when they live in a room, they have access to a kitchen but they have no food security. If they put something in the fridge, someone else is going to eat it or drink their milk," she said.

The non-profit is also serving a full turkey meal on Easter Monday. (Emma Smith/CBC)

The non-profit provides hot meals seven days a week to an average of 50 to 60 people. Goudie said they'd love to send breakfast home with people, but it's not possible if there's nowhere for them to store it.

"I've really been hopeful for years that they would start making these landlords put a little like bar bridge in each of the rooms so it would give them some kind of little bit of food security," she said.

On Sunday, eight volunteers prepared an Easter meal out of 23 kilograms of potatoes, 11 kilograms of ham, eight kilograms of carrots and 100 pieces of dessert. They also packed up 25 hot meals that people could pick up and eat at home.

Terry Murray, head cook, says there are a lot of misconceptions around who accesses the soup kitchen. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Terry Murray is in charge of the kitchen. He's been cooking food at Margaret's House for nearly a decade.

"What I look for is how much appears in the compost bucket. If there's nothing in there, they ate it all and how many people ask can I get seconds? Then you know, OK, they liked that," he said with a chuckle.

Like many of the people who eat meals at the house, Murray said he too is on social assistance.

All the food volunteers cook is donated by community members. (Emma Smith/CBC)

"The one thing that people seem to misunderstand is soup kitchens are not just for the homeless," he said. "We have a lot of working poor. We have a lot of elderly people who are trying to make their food budget stretch."

He said he knows what it's like to try to make a paycheque last 31 days.

"They're not sponging. They're not freeloaders. They're not parasites. They simply do not have the wherewithal to get through a month," Murray said.

Karen Goudie says community members dropped off lots of Easter treats. (Emma Smith/CBC)

For Easter weekend, there were more food donations than usual. A table by the window was stacked with trays of pies and cupcakes, and a church group had dropped off coloured eggs with chocolates inside.

Anne MacDonald, who has been volunteering at the organization most weekends for 10 years, helped pack up take-out containers Sunday morning. She said she's developed friendships with many of the people she helps serve.

"I love them. Some of them I get a little attached to," she said.

Volunteers prepared 25 Easter meals that people could pick up. (Emma Smith/CBC)

Goudie said the community, including local businesses, schools and residents, is incredibly generous with donations. But, all the kindness in the world doesn't give people who live on the street or in rooming houses a place to keep their own food.

"Even giving people more money to buy food would be a help, but if they have no place to store it, if they have no food security, so really we need geared-to-income housing," she said.