As with all schools across Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) to temporarily close down its campus. One thing on the long to-do list was to figure out how to deal with cafeteria fridges and freezers full of food.
The answer came in May when SMCS began donating the remaining cafeteria food to St. Basil’s Parish in support of its Out of the Cold program.
“The idea came from Greg Hook (the school’s Chief Operating Officer) and myself, because the cafeteria food needed to be distributed since the students have been away since March Break,” says SMCS President, Fr. Andrew Leung, CSB. “Since the school is shut down, the food should be distributed to those that have been affected by the pandemic.”
Fr. Leung previously served as associate pastor and administrator at St. Basil’s from 2008 to 2013, during which time he assisted with the donation and distribution of food.
St. Basil’s Church, the ‘mother church’ of the Basilian Fathers, oversees the local Out of the Cold program. The program was founded in 1987 by former faculty members Sr. Susan Moran, OLM, CM, OSM, and Fr. John Murphy, CSB, OSM, along with several students from SMCS.
“We were delighted and most appreciative to receive the donation from St. Michael’s,” says Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB, pastor of St. Basil’s Church. “I visited SMCS with Veronica Courtois, our coordinator of social justice, to collect trays of frozen fish, chicken, dumplings, mashed potatoes, and muffins.”
To the delight of the St. Basil’s staff, the food was served up almost immediately to those in need. And there was more to come --- Fr. Rice and his staff returned to SMCS a second time to pick up another donation of food.
“With the current challenges faced to secure, prepare, and serve the food, we are finding alternative ways to meet the needs of our patrons,” says Fr. Rice. “The generous SMCS donation certainly helps with meeting our growing demand --- the patrons really appreciated and enjoyed the food.”
“Another reality has been the increase in the number of patrons, especially since similar meal programs in the area have closed.”
In addition to their weekly Out of the Cold program, St. Basil’s also operates two other community outreach meal programs during the week. During the pandemic, St. Basil's has witnessed the number of patrons using these programs increase by more than 50%.
“With pandemic restrictions in place, our regular ‘dine-in’ programs have transitioned to bagged meals to go,” says Fr. Rice. “The call to stay home has limited the number of volunteers we have as well as the amount of food and monetary donations we regularly receive.
“With social justice outreach as one of the pillars of the parish, we are doing whatever we can to continually promote and support various forms of social justice,” says Fr. Rice.