Nova Scotia

N.S. food truck that serves people in need celebrates serving 10,000 meals in under a year

Freedom Kitchen has been serving meals to low-income families, youths and residents in Lower Sackville, N.S., one day a week for just under a year. Last week, the kitchen served its 10,000th meal.

Freedom Kitchen in Lower Sackville has been feeding people every Monday since October

Beth Martin is a volunteer with the Freedom Kitchen and is the vice-chair of Knox Church Council, which operates the kitchen. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

A food truck that helps people in need in Lower Sackville, N.S., has officially served 10,000 meals after operating one day a week for just under a year.

Freedom Kitchen, a community outreach project run by Knox United Church, serves meals to low-income families, youths and residents every Monday between 4 and 6 p.m. AT.

Last week, the kitchen reached an important milestone.

"It's incredible. We've never dreamt that we would be 10,000 meals served in our first program," Beth Martin, a volunteer and vice-chair of the Knox Church Council, said in an interview with CBC Nova Scotia News At Six on Monday.

The Freedom Kitchen operates every Monday from 4 to 6 p.m. AT in the parking lot of the Sackville Public Library. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The kitchen has been operating out of a donated food truck since last October and was only expected to continue until May, but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nova Scotia and food banks were deemed essential services.

"Luckily, we've had tremendous community support and volunteers and sponsorships and we've been able to remain open, which has led us to this incredible 10,000 number," Martin said.

Rainie Murphy, the director of Freedom Kitchen, said the costs of operating the food truck are low thanks to food donations from local businesses, donations from people in the community and volunteer efforts.

Murphy said their weekly costs are about $400 to $500.

Impacts of COVID-19

Martin said she has seen more people coming to the kitchen since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

She said when the kitchen first opened, it was serving about 200 meals a week.

"That's just been climbing [and] climbing and now we're around 350 meals a week and within Sackville, that's clearly a significant number," she said.

Martin said since the Freedom Kitchen opened, the Knox United Church has also started two other food programs.

The Freedom Kitchen team celebrated their 10,000th meal served with cake on Monday. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The church now offers food delivery to seniors and people with mobility issues, and has also started a non-perishable food program that fills shoeboxes with non-perishable food items like peanut butter, crackers and cans of tuna.

Martin said the shoebox program was inspired by a youth who would visit the kitchen every Monday. One day, he asked the volunteers if there was any way he could have something to last him through the week.

"He actually had a younger sibling at home, so we were able to give him some extra meals and then some supplies to actually fill a shoebox and then a shoebox became a whole program," Martin said.

The Knox United Church also offers a food delivery service for seniors and people with mobility issues. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Martin said it's unclear what will happen to the Freedom Kitchen after the pandemic ends.

"We are extremely fortunate that we have a tremendous volunteer base and we have a tremendous amount of sponsors for the program and without those we would be not able to [continue]," she said.

"But at this point, we're hoping we'll be able to continue."

With files from Elizabeth Chiu