The Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort is moving to a new location.
The downtown Owen Sound soup kitchen is slated to move from the basement of the Harmony Centre, where it has been since its inception more than six years ago, to the nearby former location of the Salvation Army Thrift Store at 946 3rd Ave. E. The move is expected to take place in September once the new space is ready.
OSHaRE executive director Colleen Trask Seaman said one of the main reasons for the move is the additional space at the new location, which will allow them to install industrial-grade cooking equipment and a walk-in cooler and freezer for large perishable donations, as well as the ability to provide other services by inviting in other community organizations.
“In the past we have had to turn away some large donations of food because we aren’t able to accommodate it,” Trask Seaman said Tuesday. “This is definitely the move we need to make to be able to access those donations.”
Trask Seaman said the move materialized out of a review of their operations that was conducted in partnership with the Grey Bruce Health Unit in 2017.
That report identified a number of improvements and new initiatives that OSHaRE could undertake to better serve the approximately 80 to 100 people it provides meals to each weeknight.
One of those areas identified was increasing the nutritional value of their meals by accepting donations of fresh produce and other foods. While the Harmony Centre has an approved kitchen, the space is not suitable to install the walk-in cooler and freezer.
The 5,000-square-foot former thrift store location became available to rent after the Salvation Army moved the operation to the Sunset Strip near Staples earlier this year.
“The biggest thing for us is that we needed to stay in the downtown core because that is where the majority of our guests come from and it is central for either hill,” said Trask Seaman. “When that building became available that is when it all kind of went through.”
The report also suggested OSHaRE explore offering other services and partnerships with community organizations. Trask Seaman said their guests are at OSHaRE for as long as two hours each weekday evening, so at the new location they will include a space where community partners such as CMHA, the health unit and others can provide their services to the guests. The Good Food Box will also move to the new location.
“We are going to put it out to everyone,” she said.
The move is an exciting time for OSHaRE, Trask Seaman said, though they are sad to leave the Harmony Centre because they have had such a good working relationship there.
“But this is what OSHaRE needs to continue doing what we do. We need industrial equipment,” said Trask Seaman. “Feeding 100 people a night on household equipment isn’t ideal. In order for us to grow and be who need to be to serve our community we needed to do this move.”
OSHaRE provides hot meals to those who need them Monday to Friday between 5 and 6 p.m. They have a lunch to go program on Saturdays and stat holidays between 11 a.m. and noon. Last year they served 21,000 meals.
Trask Seaman said the move to the new location isn’t expected to disrupt their service in any way.
“We will feed supper in one location and the next night in the new location,” she said. “We will continue service through this whole transition.”