LUCEA, Hanover – Rev Robergeau Fremond, the minister in charge of the Lucea-based Cecile Clare Kitchen of Love, says the charity organisation, which prepares hot meals for persons in need, has seen a more than 30 per cent increase in the demand for meals since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are a lot of communities who did not come [before the pandemic], and they are coming now,” said Rev Fremond, adding that “we have to increase what we used to give to really satisfy those people.”
Rev Fremond told the Jamaica Observer West that in an effort to meet the demand, the organisation has had to turn to churches in Hanover for financial assistance.
“The churches, we have to go to them to really get what we can get from them to help us to cook to meet the demand,” Rev Fremond stressed.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the kitchen would prepare roughly 450 hot meals every Tuesday between the hours of 8:30 am and 3:00 pm. Now, the number of people going to the kitchen for meals has swelled to almost 600.
In the past, the kitchen would close its doors for two weeks during the Eastertide, however, due to the huge demand, the operators were force to keep the kitchen open.
Under the initiative, persons are able to collect a hot meal directly from the kitchen, while delivery service is being offered to residents in approximately 40 communities across Hanover.
The kitchen also provides cook meals for the Hanover Municipal Corporation-operated Hanover Drop-in Centre— geared to rehabilitate and reintegrate homeless citizens of the parish through various programmes.
The Cecile Clare Kitchen of Love, which is operated by the Hanover Ministers’ Fraternal, has been sponsored mainly by Hanover Charities and Food For the Poor (FFP).
Katrin Casserly, the chair of the Hanover Charities, which has been sponsoring the kitchen for more than 10 years, said in light of the increase in the demand for meals, the annual grant to the kitchen is likely to be increased to $3 million, up from the $2.5 million it currently gets.
“We were also lucky to have received food donations from CPJ [Caribbean Producers Jamaica] and Round Hill Hotel and Villas during the months of March and April as they were forced to either close their storeroom or reduce their stock for obvious reasons,” stated Casserly, referring to the downturn in the tourism sector.
Additionally, the kitchen receives vegetables from the Hanover Charities-sponsored organic farm at the Esher Primary School situated on over one acre of land, which is managed by Farm Up Jamaica.
The available vegetables were for the school’s canteen, however, all schools were ordered closed by the Government as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the infectious virus.
The Kitchen of Love was started 26 years ago by Cecile Clare, a senior citizen and educator in the Hanover, as a Soup Kitchen offering soup to the indigent, street persons and others in need, once per week.
Over the years, the kitchen has evolved from the preparation of soup on coal pots and tyre rims to that of hot meals consisting of rice and peas, ground provisions, chicken and vegetables prepared on gas stoves.
Rev Fremond noted that while his team would be happy if they are able to receive additional utensils and stoves, “that’s what we have now, so we will work with that.”
Casserly said, “the Kitchen of Love also receives from Hanover Charities ongoing donations such as new stoves [last year], utensils and now we are seeking industrial kitchen rubber mats for the space to make it safer.”
“We also need to install a sink outside for the washing of large pots, and an additional enclosed area. This will all be done this summer,” said Casserly.
Due to the lack of kitchenware, the volunteers of eight young ministers of religion from various local churches have to cook the same menu two times each Tuesday, in an effort to meet the demand. The ministers have temporarily replaced the regular volunteers who are over the age of 65 years, following restrictions imposed by Government on people who are 70 years old and over.
Trevor Campbel, a 68-year-old amputee of Haughton Court, expressed gratitude for the existence of the Kitchen of Love.
He praised his neighbour and Rev Norman Craigie of the Kitchen of Love, who deliver his hot meal on Tuesdays.
“Most times I don’t have anything to eat and if Rev Craigie don’t come around on a Tuesday, I have nothing,” stated Campbell.
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