One year on, the COVID Meal Train stays on track in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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One year on, the COVID Meal Train stays on track in Kamloops

A Meal Train volunteer with a basket of donations.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Glenn Hilke
April 03, 2021 - 6:30 AM

After a year of filling the food insecurity gap, the COVID Meal Train in Kamloops is still full steam ahead.

With Easter approaching, the meal-providing outreach group is gearing up for a Sunday meal program and a Saturday flea market, falling on the week of the program’s one year anniversary.

Glenn Hilke, who has worked in the non-profit sector for over 40 years, started the program on March 28 last year when food programs started to reduce their services due to public health orders.

“It’s been the most amazing project I’ve ever worked on,” Hilke said. “I’ve never worked on a project completely dependent on goodwill and generosity, and its success is an extraordinary example of community organizing and compassion. When I calculated our donations, we’re talking about tens of thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from one woman; $700 to $800 in groceries from Costco every week from another family, which they do every two weeks because we have (support from) other sources.”

READ MORE: Organizer behind unique meal train program for homeless hopes to make it a permanent Kamloops fixture

When food programs ceased in the wake of COVID health restrictions, the ‘Lived Experience Committee’ at The Loop suggested to Hilke there was a need to fill the coming food gap.

“The gap in those services did not necessarily translate to me that ‘We need to do something.’ That message came from them to me and I immediately jumped on board with them,” Hilke said. “It was literally a few phone calls back and forth and we were out there the next day.”

The committee, Hilke told, is a small group of individuals who have known challenges like homelessness, substance use and food insecurity.

The COVID Meal Train operates out of The Loop on Tranquille Road, but its humble beginnings were on Hilke’s front porch, which they called the ‘donation station', where sandwiches, cookies and soups would arrive day and night.

Now there’s fifteen drivers delivering meals to the homeless and otherwise food insecure on the streets, river banks, at motels and at The Loop, where they offer takeaway meals.

While it began to simply provide meals during health restrictions when programs were closed, it has evolved to a de facto outreach program.

READ MORE: How COVID-19 has helped hungry and homeless in Kamloops get new delivery and to-go food service

“We know these folks, we see them every day. So when they present a challenge they're facing, we address it as rapidly as we can,” Hilke said. “Whether they need to get to the ER, a shelter, detox centre or lost their ID. Some things we can do ourselves and sometimes we have to connect them with other agencies.”

He couldn’t say if the Meal Train will continue after health restrictions are lifted, simply that it will stay as long as they think the work necessary.

“It's a broader question that touches the central issue of food insecurity and why it exists,” he said.

READ MORE: As Kamloops housing market pops, families stuck in the 'middle'

This week they will host a flea market fundraiser at The Loop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. On Sunday they will be providing takeaway Easter dinners.

The COVID Meal Train is looking for more volunteers on Sunday. To register, call Glenn at 250-879-0465.


Please drop off your garage sale/flea market donations All day Friday and Saturday morning at 405A Tranquille rd corner Mackenzie Posted by Glenn Hilke on Wednesday, March 31, 2021

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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