As food prices soar, Ottawa Mission sees record Easter turnout

The emergency shelter, which provides both regular daily meals and special meals for certain holidays, says it's set an all-time record this year for the number of people served over the Easter weekend.

Shelter says it's serving more people than ever

A group of people sit around a table eating plates of roast beef, green beans, potatoes and carrots. The table is decorated for Easter.
People enjoy a free Easter meal at the Ottawa Mission on April 10, 2023. The downtown Ottawa shelter says demand has skyrocketed this year amid soaring food prices. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The Ottawa Mission says its Easter meals have been more popular than ever this year — a reflection of massive food insecurity in the nation's capital.

The emergency shelter, which provides both regular daily meals and special meals for certain holidays, says it's set an all-time record this year for the number of people served on one Easter weekend.

"The inflation is driving food costs up so high, people can't afford to put an Easter dinner on," said chef Ric Allen-Watson, the Mission's food services director.

"Even a regular dinner is difficult."

In previous years, serving 2,000 meals over Easter would be considered a lot, Allen-Watson said. As of Monday morning, the shelter had already served more than 12,000. 

A blonde woman with pigtails sits at a table decorated for Easter. There is a plate of food in front of her.
Liza Morris says the Ottawa Mission meals are a valuable resource that help keep people healthy as food costs rise. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

"I think it's 100 per cent essential," said Liza Morris, a client who came for Monday's meal. "I pay my rent and I can't afford to eat."

While the Mission's meals are a great resource, Morris said she'd like to see the federal government do more to help Canadians afford the rising costs of food.

More secure funding needed

The worry is that municipal, provincial and federal governments all "pass the buck" when it comes to funding organizations like the Ottawa Mission that feed the hungry, said CEO Peter Tilley. 

"It seems more and more, the levels of government are trying to say, 'it's not our portfolio,'" he said.

The majority of the Ottawa Mission's funding comes from donors, Tilley said, and there's always a concern about whether they'll have enough funds to continue their work.

Tilley said he's also seen a rise in the number of clients who are Indigenous or new to Canada. 

"I guess they feel somewhat abandoned," he said. 


Michelle Allan is a reporter with CBC Ottawa who was previously the CBC’s Kingston reporter. She has also written for the Globe and Mail. Michelle has a master’s degree in journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University. She is half of the two-person team that won a 2021 Canadian Association of Journalists national award for investigative journalism. You can reach her at