The act of coming together and sharing food is vital for our well being, which is why a luncheon program in Elora aims to provide every resident with a nutritious and delicious meal.
"When you come together and you create an environment where people are free to be themselves, there's no boundary there, and it's something for everybody, and I think that's a valuable thing," said Debbie Reynolds, the luncheon coordinator for Bungalow Community Lunch.
Reynolds and Peter Skoggard are behind the Bungalow Community Lunch, a program which provides free meals on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, every month, from noon to 2 p.m.
“For many reasons people come,” Reynolds said about who they see at the meals, “for comradeship, companionship, some people need a lunch, they could use one, and others come to support others.
“I, myself, have enjoyed it so much over the years, and selfishly benefited from it."
Started in 2015, Reynolds said the idea for the luncheon came to her after reading the Centre Wellington Vital Signs Report.
Noticing similar themes of how to develop a healthy, social community, she and Skoggard launched a community luncheon at Bungalow 55, a shared workspace which aims to contribute to social improvement, located at 55 Geddes St. in Elora.
“I was sort of involved in a social community hub and it became an additional program at that centre,” said Reynolds. “The miraculous thing about the Bungalow Community Luncheon is that it was immediately welcomed and everyone came.”
The program ran from Bungalow 55 until 2019, then relocated to Cafe Creperie of Elora for a year. Today the program operates out of Elora Centre for the Arts.
“We’re not a specific group of people, or it’s not a club per say, but what came out of it is we created a community club, a family, it was like a family,” said Reynolds.
For the luncheons to happen, Reynolds explains they rely on donations from the community. Prior to an event, she will share a post on the Bungalow Community Lunch Facebook page about which ingredients they will need.
Residents can drop off at two donation bins outside the centre; one for ingredients and the other for takeout containers, for delivering food and encouraging people to take some home.
“They drop off the food donations there, and from there, they are put into cold storage and they are used at the next luncheon,” said Reynolds, who adds residents can also contact the program by phone to order a meal for delivery at 519-766-5883.
There are many community members who contribute to the program, mentions Reynolds. St. John’s Anglican Church in Elora provides volunteers with a place to cook the meal, local farmers who donate fresh produce and individuals who volunteer their time.
“The volunteers who help out are incredible, they’re just wonderful people,” said Reynolds. “Some of the volunteers who are with us now, have been there from the start and it’s wonderful to have that sort of commitment.”
Recently, Reynolds said the Centre Wellington Community Foundation has also provided a small grant to support the luncheon's efforts. The grant helps pay for rental fees, and provide a small amount of money to the person who cooks the meal.
In 2022, the program will be resuming on Jan. 11. Originally, Reynolds said volunteers were hoping to welcome residents back with an in-person event.
“We anticipated starting January, this Tuesday coming, with a face-to-face luncheon like we’ve always had done, but unfortunately that won’t be available to us because of restrictions, so we’re adjusting and pivoting,” Reynolds said about offering takeout boxes until they can setup a tent in May.
As the pandemic continues, Reynolds believes programs like the luncheon will continue to play a role in community well being.
“The second Centre Wellington Community Vital Signs (report) has come out and we see the same things needed in our community, it has not changed,” Reynolds said, recalling the results she first read in 2015. “It’s just a matter of responding, and being a citizen, and caring for one another within the community.”
To learn more about the Bungalow Community Lunch program, click here.