Christ Church Cathedral will revise way it feeds the hungry to comply with public health regulations.

The parish’s “Sandwich Project” program, which has operated on weekdays for 12 years without incident, has involved parishioners making sandwiches at home and bringing them to the downtown Cathedral for daily distribution to about 100 people.

Christ Church Cathedral's "Sandwich Project" currently serves about 100 each weekday.
However, after visits by a Vancouver Coastal Health inspector, the church has been told that it violates health regulations to serve “high risk” food to the public if it hasn’t been prepared in the parish kitchen.

High risk foods include sandwiches with meat, fish, cheese, egg, or similar fillings—generally food that requires refrigeration.

People’s Warden Evelyn Carroll  told the congregation during Sunday services April 20 that while the operation of the program will have to change, with food requiring refrigeration being made on site, Cathedral leaders are determined that the Sandwich Project will continue.

“Our long term plan will be to have the infrastructure in place to serve the same kind of sandwiches we did before but they will be prepared on site with teams of sandwich makers,” she said.

The plan is also to make soup in the parish kitchen. Soup has been served once a week, but it too has been brought in after preparation off site.

Domenic (Nick) Losito, regional director for the Vancouver Coastal Authority’s public health department, said the authority doesn’t want to see the program curtailed. But the inspectors are concerned that serving food which  needs to be carefully handled “is always a bit of a ticking time bomb if it’s done wrong.”

“We have a population [receiving the food] that’s quite vulnerable to anything that comes along including food poisoning. We really don’t want to endanger them. We want to make sure they get safe, wholesome food,” he said on CBC Vancouver radio.

 “We want to work with the congregation so the program not only meets the standards but also continues to provide food for the hungry,” said Losito.

The department has waived the fee usually charged food outlets, and will offer free “Food Safe” instruction to members of the congregation.

The health inspectors have allowed Christ Church to use up their frozen supply of sandwiches but bring no more in.

In the meantime, Carroll has asked the sandwich makers in the congregation to bring in “low risk” food, such as peanut butter sandwiches made with or with or without jam, or muffins.

Randy Murray, Christ Church’s Communications Director, said that the peanut butter sandwiches are much less popular with those who receive them.

“We have had complains about peanut butter in the past—we haven’t had complains recently, but I’m expecting them.”