In 2006, staggering statistics were published indicating that several hundred thousand people visited food banks in Ontario every week. Now, in 2022, those numbers have risen dramatically and, according to reports, the numbers are looking bleak for 2023 as grocery prices continue to climb.
It was in 2006, that Anne and Doug Goar of Southampton retired and decided to do something to alleviate the nutritional need in the community and came up with the idea of holding a ‘community supper’. They took the idea to St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Church Council agreed to support a pilot project. The following year, 2007, all other Southampton churches were contacted, with five agreeing to donate $100 to the venture and, in the spring, the initial series of five suppers began. Admission was by donation to help offset the food costs and volunteers were the key to its success. That first season, more than 70 people volunteered!
The menu for the first three years consisted of soup, sandwiches and dessert and then the program upgraded to include full delicious hot meals such as chili, spaghetti, salmon loaf, ham and scalloped potatoes, turkey, pulled pork, etc.
Over the history of the project, the average attendance has continued to climb with as many as 102 people being served at a single supper. The volunteers prepared, served, and cleaned up after 158 suppers and a rough estimate indicates that over 7,300 people were served in that time period.
While the project met the nutritional need in the community, it also became evident that it was also an opportunity for people living alone to meet socially and get together with neighbours and friends for a simple meal and some fellowship.
Approximately 55 volunteers assisted each year on four teams, but there are 19 “charter volunteers” who have been with Community Suppers since its inception. Additional volunteers are ALWAYS needed – it takes a whole community to do this.
The five churches that each donated $100 in the first year also promised they would donate more as the need arose. The most remarkable thing however, is that the generous admission donations have paid the expenses of the meals, and it was never necessary to ask for more financial support. To the contrary, since income exceeded expenses, the Southampton Community Suppers has been able to donate over $12,000 to other needy organizations and events, including the Salvation Army food bank, Red Cross, Ride to Conquer Cancer, Horn of Africa Drought and Famine Relief, Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund, Saugeen Memorial Hospital Foundation, World Vision, and G. C. Huston School Breakfast Club.
Now, heading into 2023 with some dire grocery projections, Community Suppers will be needed more than ever but they cannot go ahead without volunteers who are willing to spend only a few hours throughout the year to help others in the community.
As a volunteer team member, you would assist on three or four days throughout the year with two to three hours on each of those days to help prepare and serve the meals.
“All of our gifts come from God, and we are happy to have been able to share from our abundance to help others,” says Goar. The benefits associated with this project over its 13 year history, include nutritional support, social support, and the ability of community members to work together to serve. There is no intention to end this mission to the community, as long as generosity and able bodies prevail. Continue to come to the banquet! God does provide! We cannot do this without you – the community.”
For those who want to give a very small commitment of time to help others,
contact Doug Goar at 519-270-1647.