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Meals for those who are struggling

David Mutch and Heather Whalen distribute meals to Smith’s residents as part of a food programme sponsored by Butterfield Bank and The Loren at Pink Beach (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

One of the fallouts of Covid-19 is the rising number of people unable to put food on the table.David Mutch is leading a team of approximately 30, that provides for seniors and vulnerable residents in Smith’s. The 50 meals they hand out three days a week don’t meet parish demand; Mr Mutch has been overwhelmed by the generosity of understanding. “The difficulty is in spreading what we have to give,” he said. “But the beauty of that is some of these seniors were not getting any meals a week and so, for us to be able to deliver one, two or three meals a week is a real benefit to them.”The $150,000 programme went into operation on April 1. Sponsored by Butterfield Bank and The Loren at Pink Beach it’s run by churches that, with the help of approximately 200 volunteers, distribute 500 meals each day to people across the island. Mr Mutch, a retired accountant, operates the Smith’s arm out of St Patrick Catholic Church.“When we moved from every other day — which is what we started to try to do — to three times a week we asked them if they would be prepared to give up one of their meals [so there would be more to share],” he said. “People are very generous.“I’ve met a lot of nice people. I’ve talked to them, listened to a lot of stories ... you do what you can. Providing hope is really about that, about listening. You can always do something. It may not be immediate but if you give some hope that something will be available in the next few days then that’s something for folks to cling on to.” The 70-year-old, whose volunteer history spans several charities, received an unexpected call at the end of last month asking for his help.“The sponsors had already determined that the Smith’s parish pick-up point would be at St Patrick’s Church, which is my church community, and I realised pretty quickly that the sponsors intended that each parish determined in its own way the best solution for distributing these meal boxes to the seniors and the vulnerable,” Mr Mutch said.He hit “the yellow pages” and made cold calls to church leaders in Smith’s asking for their help — all gave “a resounding yes” with Marsden First United Methodist Church agreeing to help man the pick-up point. “Some already had feeding programmes however some of them had been sidelined because they had been driven by seniors who could no longer get out and distribute [meals to other seniors]. So this kind of replaced, in some respects, small legacy programmes.”An e-mail blast, calls and Facebook posts got news of the plan out to parishioners. A friend suggested to Mr Mutch that it would be better to get people to place “advance orders” rather than face a nightmare scenario of having a full car park and not enough food.“He told me I need to manage expectations,” he said. “Give them a number so if they can’t get food that day they can get food the next available day. I thought that was a very, very good idea. And so that’s the way we kind of moved forward.”Two volunteers are at the catholic church for people able to collect their meals. Deliveries are made to those who cannot travel.“[My wife] Susan and I have been taking calls daily from people in Smith’s and other parishes and we’ve got a really good network among all of the parish,” Mr Mutch said. “It’s worked very well. I just think it’s neat that The Loren would be literally responsible for cooking, preparing, boxing and then delivering to pick-up points around the island, hundreds of meals daily. And Butterfield are their partner in this.“[They] are trying to fill a gap. It’s not necessarily the homeless that we feed, it’s seniors and people who are vulnerable and that includes families that are effectively unemployed. There’s more of those stepping forward now. We’re distributing about 50 meal boxes daily.”As he understands it the success in Smith’s has been replicated at pick-up points throughout the island. “Some of the parishes are on a mom and pop basis I guess or have access to, not the meal boxes but to emergency food; some have vouchers that they can hand out. So in the finest traditions it’s a little bit like the aftermath of a hurricane. “The one thing it’s driven home to me is we know that this is really probably only the tip of the iceberg and, as the economic situation deteriorates as it inevitably will for a short time anyway, more families will step forward who will need help. And I think it’s our position to help, to serve others.”Although the existing meal programme will eventually run its course, there is now a framework that the churches can build on, Mr Mutch said.“Probably on a mom and pop basis, more can be done. But the great thing is we now have [in Smith’s] names and addresses of a growing number of people, families, seniors who we know would really like to have some help — whether it’s cooked food, whether it’s groceries, whether it’s just someone to listen to. “I’ve thought for a long time one of the best things that church communities do and can continue to do is to be good listeners and mentor. And mentoring is not coaching. It’s not telling people in a cookie cutter kind of a way what to do, it’s listening and then responding. And sometimes you can and sometimes you know someone else who can do better. So that’s kind of the big picture I think. That’s what Bermuda can do. We’re small enough and our scale helps us. Everyone’s got a big network. It’s just putting that purpose to those networks. I think we’ll come out of this repurposing, developing programmes. There’s much more to be done we just have to step forward and look and be somewhat granular about it.” • Smith’s residents wanting more information on the Butterfield Bank/The Loren at Pink Beach food programme should contact David Mutch on 534-5506, 293-5506 or edavidgamutch@gmail.com