Okanagan College Culinary Arts Alumni Steps In to Reopen Soup Kitchen
A Red Seal Chef, who was laid off due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, has found new employment at Penticton’s soup kitchen, which reopened on Friday following a four-day closure.
Rachel Broe said she was only four days into her new position as sous chef at Hillside Winery when the COVID-19-related social distancing restrictions were implemented, prompting many restaurants to temporarily close their doors to in-person dining.
“So I’ve been just sitting at home wondering what I am doing and I found a friend on Facebook mentioned the Soupateria, so I just looked into it and said, ‘Okay it’s something to do, I am interested in that,'” she told Global News on Sunday.
Broe, who won a radio contest that covered the tuition of her culinary program at Okanagan College, said she’s come full circle with her new position at the Soupateria.
“I have been there, I have hit a low in my life, I was a single mom and trying to fend for myself and I’ve had to go use the food bank and I’ve had to go to the free store and had to figure out my next meal having a young son, and for me, to give back, because I know how that feels, it feels great,” Broe said.
Broe is one of four hired staff who are operating the soup kitchen, after the society that runs the Soupateria shut it down last week due to safety concerns for clients and volunteers.
Tracy Comber, president of the Penticton Soupateria Community Society, said clients weren’t following social distancing efforts. Many of its volunteers are seniors, she noted, who are at higher risk of serious complications if they contract the highly infectious disease.
Comber said the board made the difficult decision to close the Soupateria and informed the City of Penticton and Interior Health through a letter.
“And then everybody kicked into high gear, and between the city, the Community Foundation, Interior Health and One Sky, we were able to get the grant and One Sky is going to administer the payroll for the grant, so the way everything worked out was perfect,” Comber said.
Late last week, the Soupateria was able to secure a grant through the Community Foundation to hire paid employees to continue operating the soup kitchen.
“A huge relief, there wasn’t a lot of sleep to be had for those four days that we were closed down and working non-stop with everybody trying to find a way to make this work,” Comber said.
Comber stressed that the initial closure was not due to a funding shortfall but rather to protect the health and safety of its volunteers. Funds earmarked by the Soupateria will continue to go toward purchasing food and planning for the future.
On Friday, 45 people received a bagged lunch and on Saturday that number climbed to 57.
As the word spreads that the Soupateria has reopened, combined with the economic turmoil that’s causing many people to lose their jobs, the society expects the demand will climb in the coming weeks.
The grant is secured for two months, at which time the society will re-assess the situation.