FROM SOUP KITCHENS TO FOOD BANKS
By Carolyn Mont
Most of us tend to think of Food Banks as something relatively new and those who benefit from them as
being products of our modern world. In many ways this is true but in Halifax we have a long history of
helping the unfortunate among us.
For example, after the War of 1812, there were Soup Kitchens on the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax. Samuel Cunard (yes, he who founded the Cunard Steamship Company, at one time the largest steamship company in the
world) worked at that Soup Kitchen. He and his wife Susan donated food and then served it to the
hungry. This is a long way from modern food banks, in both time and style but the need and the support are
I was reminded of this when I attended the opening events of Feed Nova Scotia’s annual conference in
September. Throughout the evening, various food banks were recognized for the work they do.
Each offers more than just food and it was easy to see the dedication in each individual food bank. Of
course, as Chair of the Board of St. Paul’s Family Resources Institute, (FRI), I was waiting to hear what would be said about our food bank. We were the last ones mentioned and Feed Nova Scotia recognized the
national award that was given to St. Paul’s FRI Food Bank in the spring. At that time, Food Banks Canada gave
just 3 national awards for Excellence in Food Banking, one for small food banks, one for medium sized food banks and one for large food banks. St. Paul’s Family Resources Institute received the award for small food banks.
At FRI, which is the outreach ministry of St. Paul’s United Church in Spryfield, we are not just a
food bank. We offer a lot of services to our clients and hearing them all listed together, it was obvious
why we had been recognized by Food Banks Canada. We have a Food Bank Café where clients can have coffee and a snack while waiting to pick up their order rather than waiting out in the cold and/or rain;
we offer a volunteer income tax service to those with limited income; Dal Legal Aid is often on hand to address concerns individuals may have; we’re fine tuning our Food, Fitness and Fun class; nursing students are often on hand to offer advice; our minister, Reverend Jeanne Manning Stright is in attendance to meet and talk with the clients; nursing students from Mount Saint Vincent University provide tips on health and nutrition; and the Book Buddies program has been successful.
Our programs change from time to time due to need, funding and volunteers. This was certainly true in the past as well and means we must be aware of what is happening in the community. Right now, we are preparing for our busiest time of the year, Christmas. Last year, FRI provided Christmas baskets of food to more than 150 families.
We also had a large toy store set up where clients were able to choose toys for their children.
As in the days when Samuel Cunard worked at a Soup Kitchen on the Grand Parade, those organizations which
help the poor also need help. The style of delivery has changed but the need is still there. At the FRI Food Bank, we get help from the United Church, from Feed Nova Scotia, from private donors and from many volunteers.
Our date to give out Christmas baskets is December 18 and the work all gets done before that. If you would like to help as a volunteer or as donor of new toys, food or money please call Kristen Hollery at 479-1015 or e-mail her at
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