HUMBOLDT — Facing a greater demand for their services, the Humboldt Community Soup Kitchen is asking the city to pledge $25,000 a year for two years to support a program co-ordinator.
Kari Cenciosi, the soup kitchen’s co-ordinator, told council at their Aug. 23 meeting that since March 2020, demand for their services had increased 60 per cent.
“We kind of expected that things would have lessened a little bit with the restrictions being lifted, but that hasn't happened,” she told Councillor Rob Muench after he asked how demand has been affected by that event.
“We started with 120 when COVID hit, it has fluctuated since then from 107 to 115.”
With COVID-19, the soup kitchen had to change how they provided their services. No longer able to provide meals at the Community Gathering Place on Tuesday evening, a system was developed where the meals were prepared and then delivered to the doors of those that needed them. They also added a Thursday lunch.
From January to May 2021, 4,728 meals were delivered. Of the clients served, 45 were seniors, 31 adults and 30 children.
“We have people obviously who need our assistance and it's not just the people that we think we know that need it. It's very surprising how varied our client list is,” Cenciosi said.
The program co-ordinator said the community of Humboldt has been supportive, with volunteers and service organizations giving up their time, as well as businesses – both local and from outside the region – donating money and needed goods.
“We actively participate in programs where people that are being ordered by the court to put in volunteer work rather than getting a record or or going to jail,” Cenciosi said. “We take those people and they volunteer with us, and they enjoy their time with us and we enjoy having them.”
Cenciosi said that while support has been strong, their funding sources are by no way guaranteed.
“Our area of concern is to have a guaranteed donation or funding that will allow the soup kitchen to have a program co-ordinator so that we can continue to operate,” Cenciosi said.
“We're asking for a pledge from the City of Humboldt to help support us. We are necessary in this community. There are people in the vulnerable sector, that are marginalized, that wouldn't be eating.”
Cenciosi added that they’ve been asked by groups in other cities that are comparable in population to Humboldt to help them to start a soup kitchen.
“We're not the only ones in a place this size who have difficulty, who have people that are struggling, that's for sure.”
Day Joe, the city manager, said the city has started on its budgeting process and the soup kitchen’s funding request would be taken into consideration.