By Michelle Poirier
Every Friday, Solace Serenity Healing, a boutique shop in Sutton that sells alternative health and healing products, opens its doors to people experiencing food insecurity, so they can pick up free groceries.
It’s called Free Grocery Fridays.
The program is run by The Blue Butterfly Shop, a local non-profit started by Keswick resident Kendra Shae-Marie Mullings, owner of KendraYoga.
“The Blue Butterfly Shop food insecurity relief program started because it became obvious through my interactions in the community that people in Georgina need help with food,” Mullings said.
The program, according to Mullings, dates back to 2016 but was initially limited to feeding three to five families a week.
“Our recent expansion of the program through different partnerships, including Second Harvest, allows us to feed many more families.”
Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization.
It works with food producers, distributors, retailers, hotels, and restaurants, to collect their surplus food, then connects that food to charities and non-profit organizations. These organizations use the food to feed their local community.
Mullings said those who need food can line up at the store on Friday and will be served in turn, with quantities depending on what is available that day.
“At The Blue Butterfly Shop, we strive to give all the food away immediately,” she said.
“There are rarely leftovers at the end of Free Grocery Fridays. If food is left over, we have arrangements with other community organizations to see that nothing goes to waste.”
Stephanie Matthews, the owner of Solace Serenity Healing, is one of the non-profit’s community partners and works with Mullings to source the food.
She says she’s grateful to be able to help people struggling to pay their grocery bills.
“I look forward to it. It’s my favourite day of the week,” she said.
“The people I get to help; they put a smile on my face. And I put a smile on their face.”
Matthews says the 20 to 30 regulars who come in every week are mainly working people struggling to make ends meet.
“There are more working people that need food security right now. It’s not the people that are low-income or on welfare. It’s the working class,” she said.
Matthews points to food inflation as the culprit.
“It’s sky-high food prices, basically,” she said. “They can’t afford the staples, like dairy, meat and vegetables.”
Matthews believes the program is successful because there are few restrictions.
“It works so well because I don’t ask you any questions. I don’t ask for I.D. I want you to come in and know you’re going out with the groceries you need. And nobody here takes any more than they need,” she said.
“One lady who comes in said that while we don’t have everything she needs, it helps with her grocery bill.”
The Blue Butterfly Shop offers Free Grocery Fridays every Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Solace Serenity Healing, 5189 Baseline Road, Sutton.
Mullings said they are not currently looking for volunteers but are happy to receive food and financial donations. For more information, you can text Mullings at (905) 960-8319 or email: email@example.com
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