McGill, News

Midnight Kitchen re-launches free meal program after COVID-19 hiatus

Midnight Kitchen re-launched its free prepared meal program on Sept. 15 after being forced to suspend its services for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides 50 vegan and nut-free meals, distributed every second week, out of the University Centre cafeteria, located on the second floor. 

Midnight Kitchen is a volunteer-run collective that aims to increase accessibility to healthy food in the McGill community. The collective is explicitly anti-capitalist and centres its work around the values of intersectionality, sustainability, non-hierarchical organization, and anti-oppression. They are a service of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). 

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Nat Alexander, a Midnight Kitchen program coordinator, elaborated on the mission of the free lunch program.

“The free prepared meal program helps combat food insecurity, and also provides an alternative to the corporate food providers on campus,” Alexander said. “We are able to provide lunch for people who maybe can’t afford it because of rising prices, and we also make our food vegan and nut-free to try to be as accessible to as many people as possible.”

The collective conducted a test run of the program in August prior to its official reopening. Alexander explained that, while the trial was successful, the collective realized that they do not have enough resources to meet high community demand.

“There [are] always more people than we can provide for,” Alexander said. “That is the nature of working and combatting food insecurity because there are more people in Montreal that are experiencing food insecurity than our small organization can handle. There was a great turnout. A lot of people, a lot of happy faces.”

Amalia Baike, U3 Science, explained in an interview with the Tribune that as a vegan student, they are glad to have an organization offering meals that are accommodating to their dietary restrictions. 

“I think Midnight Kitchen is a wonderful and important entity on McGill campus,” Baike said. “The impact of this is immeasurable [….] Midnight Kitchen fills a void on campus for vegan students like me. I really hope they are able to expand operations to serve food more frequently.”

While the free lunch program was shut down during the pandemic, Alexander explained that the collective continued to provide other services to the community.

“In the early days of the pandemic, we organized a system to deliver the food to people’s houses, which was unprecedented,” Alexander said. “We were delivering 500 grocery bags to 100 different families. We also prepared meals for students who were in quarantine. Then we also had a grocery gift card program when our food bank program was no longer sustainable.”

As a SSMU-affiliated organization, Midnight Kitchen is funded by student fees which allows the collective to offer free meals. SSMU vice-president External Val Masny reiterated the importance of Midnight Kitchen in an email to the Tribune.

“Midnight Kitchen’s re-launch was evidently a big success,” Masny wrote. “The University Centre’s cafeteria was filled with students accessing the service. Especially with inflation rising, and with it the cost of food, providing nutritious free meals to students is more necessary [than ever]. Midnight Kitchen’s team is dedicated and already looking at ways they can improve their service. As a student, it’s definitely worth checking out.”

Midnight Kitchen’s next service will be on Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. on the second floor of the University Centre. To stay updated on the collective’s events, refer to the calendar on their website.

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