St. Augustine’s, Anglican Church in Vancouver’s Marpole is one of the Westside’s most enduring parishes. The parish has a long-standing tradition of welcoming and helping their neighbours. This commitment to compassionate service in one of wealthy Vancouver’s poorer neighbourhoods has only grown in recent years. St Augustine’s has been a place where folks can enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast; sit down in community for a delicious plated dinner (these are currently part of the Bagged Meal Programme) and browse racks of good quality donated clothing. With the COVID-19 pandemic, ministry like everything else in our lives has had to adjust and St. Augustine’s has taken on a new role in their service.
Vicar of St. Augustine’s, the Reverend Katherine Hough (who was installed at the start of the pandemic, March 9, 2020) welcomed diocesan communications, allowing us to get a first-hand look at the current process of food distribution, and not only that, Rev. Hough also took some time to participate in the following interview.
Please tell us a little about the history of the relationship between Marpole Neighbourhood House (MHN) and St. Augustine’s (St. A’s)?
When the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) closed its satellite sites (St A’s being one of them) at the start of the pandemic, the Marpole Neighbourhood House (MNH) stepped in to provide groceries. This is food provided by the GVFB and other donors distributed by MNH staff and volunteers. St A’s and MNH have had a long supportive relationship with shared community services and referrals.
With this new phase food distribution beginning September 3, please describe the role of the Parish of St. Augustine’s as this ministry continues?
The new Marpole Interfaith Food Hub starting up (we have volunteers and participation from Christian, Jewish and community groups) will see St A’s will act as host for the programme providing physical support/space and volunteers. Our coordinator is Kate Malloy from the Kerrisdale Oakridge Marpole Community Policing Centre (KOMCPC).
How many volunteers are involved and what are their specific roles?
We have 3 sets of volunteers – Wednesday morning (8-10 volunteers ) who unload the food, set up the space and begin the bagging process; Wednesday evening (6-8 volunteers) who complete the bagging; Thursday morning (12 volunteers) who distribute the food, tally numbers and ensure physical distancing.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the ministry and what protocols are in place?
Most folks know to physically distance but it makes for some interesting situations and unfortunately we now require all guests to hand-sanitize and wear a mask prior to entering the hall to receive their groceries. All volunteers must wear gloves & masks while in the building. This is very different from the protocols when the GVFB used the space. We also must ensure everything is sanitized pre & post food distribution. The affect on our ministry is the increased numbers we see due to increased food insecurity in the neighbourhood. Most of our guests are seniors but we are noticing an increase in singles & foreign students needing food.
How did you find the diocesan approval process to move toward in-person attendance and pick-up?
The approval process was simple. We already have approval for our Bagged Meal Programme and simply expanded to include food distribution.
Do you have a sense of how many in the Marpole community and beyond are benefitting from this ministry?
Our first day saw over 140 individuals or families receive groceries. The last day the MNH distributed food (Aug 18) over 180 people received food. We expect to reach and exceed that number here in this refreshed process as guests adjust to the new location and the need for food increases.
As this is the Marpole Interfaith Food Hub, is it connected to other not for profits and faith communities?
The Shalom Temple, St Vartan's Armenian Apostolic Church of Vancouver and KOMCPC are partners with St. A’s along with the MNH (they have offered some financial assistance as we will need to purchase some of the food we distribute (i.e. milk). The Westside Neighbourhood Ministry (Anglican) and the Union Gospel Mission (Kits Cares Café) are supporters. We will also be receiving food donations from the Lotus Light Charity beginning next week.
What are the plans for this ministry moving forward?
We will continue it as long as we have the volunteers and our agency agreement with the GVFB.
How is the ministry funded and how can people help?
Volunteers are always welcome. We will accept food donations but remember we are feeding over 200 souls. NO home-cooked or canned products will be accepted. Monetary donations gratefully received (we need to purchase grocery bags, masks & sanitizer and specialty food items to supplement what we receive from the GVFB).
We are happy to be able to host this necessary ministry in our hall as this fits so closely with the ongoing food ministry that St A’s has been known for all these years.
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