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Huge jump in demand for Cathedral meals programme sparks appeal

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'It’s a sad situation overall’ - Lucy Willitts, a volunteer for a feeding programme at The Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton, appeals to the public for help after the programme saw a dramatic increase in people who came to them for assistance. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A food programme run by the Anglican Church yesterday appealed for help after a massive increase in demand because of hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Bishop of Bermuda, said the cathedral in Hamilton used to serve about 50 people a week with its breakfast programme before the coronavirus crisis.

But he added numbers had skyrocketed to about 120 people a day since Covid-19 hit Bermuda earlier this year and the programme had been forced to expand from two days a week to seven and serve three meal sittings a day.

Lucy Willitts, a volunteer with the programme, said that the church only had about three volunteers a day who prepared and served the food with basic equipment.

She added: “It’s frustrating because you’ve got people out there who are hungry.

“People have to wait five, ten minutes – maybe longer sometimes – for a meal.”

Ms Willitts, who had been with the programme since the start of the pandemic, said that volunteers had to store pre-made meals in a freezer because the church kitchen did not have a working refrigerator.

She added that reheating a single frozen meal could take up to ten minutes.

Ms Willitts added that the church kitchen only had one working microwave, which also slowed meal production.

She said that the programme used to have a chef who cooked meals for the service, but that would have to leave the island at the end of the month because his work permit had not been renewed.

Ms Willitts added: “It’s just sad – it’s a sad situation overall.”

Volunteers for a feeding programme at The Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton prepare meals for the 120 people they see a day. from left, volunteers Maureen Morre and Paul Tandy and BIshop Dill. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The church said many charities and volunteer programmes had seen a similar increase of people in need of help because of the number of people who had lost their jobs because of the economic impact of Covid-19.

Paul Tandy, also a volunteer with the programme, said that many church staff and volunteers paid for ingredients out of their own pockets.

He added that the programme received meals from donors and The MarketPlace, which was based across the road on Church Street.

But he admitted: “We never have enough. We have to work on the principle that hopefully – and this is a big hope – we have meals left over from the previous day.

“Believe me, there’s been days when we’ve had shortages and everything’s gone and we feel awful.”

He added: “We’ve gone out and bought meals for people because we just don’t want to see people destitute.

“Call it the grace of God or divine intervention or whatever you want to call it – we always seem to just get over the line.”

Mr Tandy said that the programme fed about 120 people every day, but the number had sometimes gone up to 150.

He added: “Some people are willing to wait around but others are not, especially if it’s hot or raining and they’ve got no shelter.

“It hits home and we’re starting to see more and more families now, which in my opinion is just horrible.”

Mr Tandy said that the church needed a range of appliances, including a refrigerator, as well as another microwave and a convection oven to help speed up service.

He added that the programme also needed more volunteers, funds and meals to help cope with demand.

Mr Tandy appealed to companies to donate cash and meals to the programme to take the pressure off the volunteers who prepared the food.

He said that the programme was grateful for spare food and drinks from companies such as soft drinks firm Barritt’s and wholesalers BGA.

But he added: “The more we could get on board like that would be great”.

Mr Tandy added: “All donations are kindly accepted – the more the better, because that’s how we help more people.

“We just try to give them mutual respect and dignity – these people deserve dignity like every human being.”

Bishop Dill added that the church at first expanded the service with backing from the The Loren hotel and Butterfield Bank and decided to continue after the campaign by the two businesses ended in the summer.

He said that the programme had sufficient funds to buy food supplies to cover present demand until the end of the year – but was in desperate need of volunteers and kitchen appliances and that extra cash would cover any increase in numbers.

Bishop Dill added: “Donating either time or finances to programmes like this – doing some extra cooking, storing it away in a freezer and then giving meals to organisations like ours – would be really helpful.”

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Published October 21, 2020 at 7:38 pm (Updated October 21, 2020 at 7:37 pm)

Huge jump in demand for Cathedral meals programme sparks appeal

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