Since it was started in 1978, the Centretown Emergency Food Centre has been the main project of the Centretown Churches Social Action Committee (CCSAC), a group of Ottawa churches dedicated to uniting Christians in social action and prayer.
The Food Centre, located at 507 Bank Street in the basement of Centretown United Church, serves clients four days a week. Our full-time Coordinator directs the operation of the Food Centre with the help of dedicated teams of volunteers who stock shelves and package food in the mornings and others who serve clients in the afternoon.
The Food Centre’s mandate is to serve those in need in the Centretown area bordered by Wellington Street on the north, Billings Bridge to the south, Lyon Street to the west and Main Street, including Lees Avenue, to the east. While the nature of our clientele has shifted over the years as the demographics of our catchment area have changed, demand for food from people living on social assistance, with disabilities and on low-income jobs has remained throughout the years and, in recent years, has started to grow again. In particular, the Centre now serves a higher number of children due to the recent increase in amount of subsidized housing available for families in Centretown.
One of the Food Centre’s main challenges is funding. An annual grant from the City of Ottawa covers most of our staffing costs, but we rely on member churches to organize food drives food and donate funds so that we can offer our clients a 3-to-4 day supply of nourishing food, according to the size of their family. Significant additional help comes from the Ottawa Food Bank, local schools and businesses and many individuals.
The Food Centre is directed by a Management Committee, appointed by its parent organization, CCSAC, with daily operations managed by its Coordinator. The Food Centre interacts regularly with other community resources, such as Centre 507 (Centretown United’s drop-in centre), the Centretown Community Health Centre, and the Out-of-the-Cold winter dinners offered by several of CCSAC’s member churches. Throughout the year, the Food Centre offers references to other services and keeps its bulletin boards up-to-date to promote greater access to them. As well, the Food Centre promotes healthy eating and budgeting practices with periodic food demonstrations for its clients, and in the winter, keeps a supply of free hats and warm mitts. At Christmas, the Food Centre cooperates with the Christmas Hamper project run by local churches to ensure most of its client families receive a Christmas hamper, and provides extra help to all its other clients.