Free meal program in Yarmouth combats loneliness

The Town of Yarmouth started the 100 Meals in 100 Days program to help people get a hot meal during the winter. But the mayor says it's also helping people cope with social isolation.

Social aspect of 100 Meals in 100 Days program 'tremendously important,' says mayor

The free meal program aims to help feed people in need. (CBC)

A free meal program in Yarmouth is doing more than feeding the hungry. It's helping people in the community become more social, says the town's mayor.

The Town of Yarmouth started the 100 Meals in 100 Days program in December to help people who are struggling financially get food. By opening the meals to everyone, the town hoped it would reduce any stigma associated with the need for a meal.

But Mayor Pam Mood said it's also helping people cope with social isolation.

"It's absolutely wonderful. It's heartwarming. It's all those things you want a program to be but you never think it will reach the bar. But it has on every level," Mood said.

Pam Mood is the mayor of Yarmouth. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

"There are people that we know are desperately in need of a hot meal sitting at the table with professionals who obviously don't need that meal.… I think the key thing that we've learned is it's the social aspect that is tremendously important to people," Mood said.

The meals are held all over town each day of the week in six different locations. Money for the food comes from community members who sponsor meals.

"We have seniors coming out who don't get out of their homes in the dead of winter and they're coming out to those meals, they're sitting with their friends, they're excited, they're making plans for tea the next day. It's just beautiful," Mood said.

Fighting loneliness

The meals have attracted people from diverse backgrounds and have led to new friendships, Mood said.

"I bumped into a young man in his early 20s and he came to breakfast by himself and it's funny, he said, 'You know, I'm just looking for someone to play cards with.'

"And all of a sudden two gentlemen turned around and said, 'We'll play cards.' So we ended up putting cards on the table on that morning. It just creates community."

The last meal for the program ends the third weekend in March, Mood said.

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon