Lunch By George
Lunch by George normally serves 100 people per day, and over 120 at our Christmas meal. The program operates five days a week, opening at 9:00 a.m. with coffee and snacks and serving soup at 10:00 a.m. and a hot nutritious lunch at 11:00 a.m.. Normally the dishes are done and the kitchen cleaned up before noon, which leaves the hall available for other groups in the afternoon.
Many of the patrons have some form of disability – mental or physical – which prevents them from working. Many of these patrons have been coming for a number of years. Lunch by George is their social centre; they know each other and care for each other. A few are elderly and in poor circumstances.
A survey done several years ago showed that most were on disability, pension or welfare assistance, with rents consuming 30 to 50% of their incomes. Many have no cooking facilities – maybe just a hotplate – and limited opportunity to cook in a functional kitchen. Yet other patrons are only temporary: they are those who are employable but are having difficulty finding work. They use our services until their status improves or they move to another community with better employment prospects.
Over the last two or three years the numbers attending the Lunch Program have been gradually increasing – due to cutbacks in support programs for the poor and fewer employment opportunities. We are glad that we can keep the kitchen open five days a week, fifty-one weeks of the year, to help support folks in need.
The History of Lunch by George
Outreach St. George’s Kingston (OSGK) was established in 1997 as an independent, non-profit and secular organization to:
- co-ordinate resources to provide food and clothing to the poor, and
- extend financial support to charitable agencies that serve children and/or abused women in the City of Kingston.
The Lunch Program has been its principal activity in recent years, but OSGK has also coordinated the financial support for a refugee family that settled in Kingston in 2003.
A lunch and drop-in program was first opened in downtown Kingston at St. George’s Hall in 1985 for the summer months to replace the program at St. Vincent de Paul which closed during that time. The following year, the program was run again by volunteers from St. George’s Cathedral, relying on financial support from the church and the community, as well as from donations of food. This time, however, the program continued beyond the summer. In 1988 a budget for operations was drawn up and the Ministry of Community and Social Services agreed to provide partial funding, including the cost of hiring a co-ordinator. With support from the provincial government, the Lunch Program was able to reimburse the cathedral for costs associated with the program (utilities, maintenance, etc.)
However in 1996, the provincial government announced that as part of an overall reduction in social service spending, the Lunch Program would no longer be funded. Yet, during the same year a Task Force Report had examined the Program and actually recommended maintaining it. So the solution was to work on finding alternate funding. The Task Force received many letters of support expressing the sentiment that as a community, we have a responsibility to help the poor. Defined as the most “downtown” of the churches in Kingston, St. George’s was the best location to do this.
OSGK operates independently of St. George’s Cathedral. It continues to pay operating expenses in St. George’s Hall and to receive support from many parishioners and other Kingstonians.
For over 20 years, Lunch By George served over 10,000 meals annually from perhaps the smallest kitchen of its kind in the region. In 2009, our volunteers moved into an expanded and updated kitchen in St. George’s Hall, thanks to a grant from Ontario’s Trillium Foundation and many local supporters.
Lunch by George now receives financial assistance from many individuals and a number of Kingston businesses, who have each made multi-year pledges to help us to operate this valued service to the community. The United Way, City of Kingston and Community Foundation of Greater Kingston have also been important financial contributors in recent years.
Interested in donating, volunteering or finding out more about Lunch by George?
We are so grateful to the community of Kingston! You have donated, volunteered and 'been there' in so many ways.