A soup kitchen in St. Thomas that provides meals for people in need is calling on the province to allow its visitors back inside.
Earlier this week, The Grace Cafe — which provided meals to between 80 and 100 people per day prior to the pandemic — was informed by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health officials that it could continue allowing people inside as long as distancing measures were followed.
Only five people would be allowed inside in 15-minute rotations and tables would be moved so they are six feet apart.
But according to the cafe’s founder, health officials then informed her Monday that the province’s rules prohibit anyone from coming inside the facility.
“I am coming to you to ask for mercy — that you will allow us to have five [people inside] at a time, sitting down, distanced … just to get warm,” said Ginny Trepanier in a video directed at the Ford government.
“I can’t tell you how bad this is. People are outside with their noses pressed against the window, freezing, drinking coffee and eating their breakfast on the concrete and we can’t even allow them in to get warm.”
Tap on the player below to see Grace Cafe founder Ginny Trepanier’s full appeal to the provincial government:
The cafe normally allows people to come inside for a free meal weekdays between 7:45 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. In an interview with CBC News, Trepanier said the Grace Cafe is “essential” and provides a much-needed service in St. Thomas.
“For five and a half years, we have filled that gap of people coming and getting lots of food.”
People are outside with their noses pressed against the window, freezing, drinking coffee and eating their breakfast on the concrete and we can’t even allow them in to get warm. ?????– Grace Cafe owner Ginny Trepanier in a video directed at the Ford government
But even though the doors are closed, Trepanier said people are still coming to the cafe. Currently, Grace Cafe is still preparing meals for people to-go. Each person receives a bag full of cutlery and food.
“They get a full meal, safely wrapped up, and they can pick what they want. It could be bagged vegetables, sandwiches, salad, fruit and all the coffee they could ever want,” she said, adding dinner items are available as well.
Officials with Southwestern Public Health said they are empathetic to Trepanier’s situation and that providing food to vulnerable populations is a “very noble thing to do.”
However, the province’s order must be enforced for all businesses which provide food.
“The Grace Cafe is a food premises … so we treat them as such,” said Peter Heywood, program director for Southwestern Public Health. “They are only allowed to provide the option of takeout.”
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