Nova Scotia

Souls Harbour now serving more meals than when pandemic hit in March

The Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Halifax is now handing out more free meals than when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Nova Scotia.

Charity served a record 286 meals one day last week at its Halifax location

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is serving an average of 250 packaged meals every day. That's up from about 200 in March. (Souls Harbour Rescue Mission/Facebook)

The Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Halifax is now handing out more free meals than when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Nova Scotia.

CEO Michelle Porter told CBC's Information Morning Monday that volunteers at its Halifax location are now serving 250 bagged meals a day, up from about 200 a day back in March.

Last Wednesday, they served 286 meals, the most they've ever served in one day.

"I don't know why it's still increasing, but the amount of people we're serving has increased 250 per cent last week from pre-pandemic numbers," she said.

Michelle Porter is the CEO of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

On top of the usual people they serve, Porter said people are coming from "far and wide" for a hot meal.

With Halifax Transit bus service returning to a regular schedule this week, Porter said that'll be a big help for the people who bus in from Dartmouth or Fairview to bring bagged lunches back to their families.

Souls Harbour switched to serving bagged lunches in March when the province announced its first wave of restrictions aimed at minimizing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The switch from buffet to takeout-style meals came with an increase in cost. (Souls Harbour Rescue Mission/Facebook)

The move came with a "tremendous" jump in price per meal, from $3.11 to $4.85, as the charity had to buy takeout containers and pre-packaged snacks and drinks.

Because they wanted to ensure the meals were still nutritional, Porter said they've been buying fresh fruit for snacks, and water and juice instead of soda, which have only added to the cost.

In a regular week, they serve 1,500 drinks. In the especially warm weeks of summer, that number doubled.

Porter said their Thanksgiving dinner, which usually serves 400-500 meals, will also be to-go this year.

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission served a record-breaking number of meals last week- and providing those meals is costing more than ever. We'll hear how they and other charities are weathering the pandemic. 7:50

In the spring, Souls Harbour got some help from the United Way's Atlantic Compassion fund, which Porter said "got [them] through those beginning months."

The fund started with a $100,000 donation from a local business leader and grew to over $10 million after more local donations and support from the federal and provincial governments.

Nicole Cameron, development specialist with the United Way, said the fund has given money to 397 charities across Atlantic Canada, with $2.4 million going to more than 90 front-line organizations in the Halifax Regional Municipality alone.

But Cameron said there's still a lot of work to be done, with the total requests for support far outweighing the amount of funding available.

"The need for food, shelter and connection have only increased," she said. "And we don't expect that to change any time soon."

With files from CBC's Information Morning