Even though it may look like a restaurant, the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in downtown Campbell River is not subject to the March 29 COVID-19 restrictions.
That’s because it is an essential service. The facility, while it does have a kitchen and dining room, functions as a service which provides meals to people in need, not as a commercial venture. Hama?Elas is a volunteer-run service that provides meals to vulnerable populations in Campbell River who are facing food insecurity issues. Because it is essential to the lives of clients, it is allowed to stay open.
“I’ve had quite a few of our volunteers question this in the last 48 hours, that’s why I went back to (the environmental health officer) to get clarification,” said Ian Baikie, a volunteer with the kitchen. “We’re not a restaurant, we’re feeding a vulnerable population and fall under a different category.”
That being said, the facility does have some very stringent protocols in place to ensure the safety of both volunteers and clients.
“Some of that is probably beyond what you see in our restaurant,” Baikie said. “Our greeter wears a shield, for example, that was a recommendation from the environmental health officer because it’s a high-risk activity. They wear a shield plus a mask. Everyone’s masked, always have been. We’ve got pretty good procedures. There are all these requirements to sanitize surfaces, tables etc that have always been in place, very much like a restaurant.”
Those protocols were developed with the environmental health officer, and have been in place since the facility opened in November.
“We met with the environmental health officers when we opened the community kitchen in November and they told us that we were clearly an essential service,” he explained. “She explained to me that the procedures we have in place are adequate and to continue with the same protocols as we’ve been using since the beginning of our operation.”
Though they are operating in the midst of a public health emergency, Baikie said he has been seeing many people coming through the doors at meal times. For example, the Tuesday evening dinner meal had 51 people attend.
“That’s a big number. We’re often in the 40s, but nevertheless, there’s a consistent need for the services we provide,” he said. “I was hoping there’d be some reductions with the opening of (the supportive housing facility at) 580 (Dogwood), but we seem to have shifting populations.
“We’re seeing more families now, and more seniors now than we had in the beginning. A lot of our clientele seem to be seniors,” he added. “We’ve had a couple of families come and eat with us over the last couple weeks. It’s nice. If they need those services I’m glad they’re available to them.”