Tahlia Ludlow, communications manager, says its been heartening to see the outpouring of community support for the Red Cedar Café. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Victoria non-profit café on track to serve 10,000 meals this month

Red Cedar Café community meal program fueled by volunteers

A Victoria non-profit delivering free, healthy meals to people in need reached a landmark moment and is already preparing for another.

On June 4, the Red Cedar Café delivered its 5,000th healthy meal to a member of the community, and hopes to deliver its 10,000th before the end of the month. Operating out of the former Willie’s Bakery on Johnson Street, the café has been providing free meals to seniors, people in self-isolation and other vulnerable community members since April.

Communications manager Tahlia Ludlow says organizers saw the need after non-profits like Our Place and the Cool Aid Society had to limit their operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems like there’s a lot of joy [that] we’re bringing in a pretty scary time,” she said. “Whether it’s the reply from a woman in her 80s who hasn’t left her apartment in 10 weeks … or the volunteers who are so happy to have a purpose again.”

READ ALSO: How Greater Victoria’s non-profit sector is handling the pandemic

A few months into the pandemic and the organization is providing about 1,200 free meals each week, with its 160 volunteers working day in and day out like a well-oiled charitable machine.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, volunteers do cooking and prep work. Wednesdays are mostly for packaging, and on Thursdays and Sundays the organization distributes the meals – through pick-up, dine-in or contactless delivery. The food is offered on a donation basis for those who are able.

Donations have poured in from around the community – chefs, restaurants, grocery stores and other non-profits have made the endeavour possible by offering up food and time, free of charge.

Ludlow says organizers and volunteers are fundraising to keep the operation running, even as pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“We’re hoping to keep this going moving forward to run as a non-profit restaurant,” she said. “We have people relying on us for food and we don’t want to take that away.”

For information about volunteering with the Red Cedar Café or ordering meals, visit redcedarcafe.ca or call 778-817-0395.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: One in five non-profits in B.C. at risk of closing

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