This article was originally published on simcoereformer.ca – https://www.simcoereformer.ca/news/local-news/migrant-workers-offered-free-meals-fellowship
A group is offering free meals and fellowship twice a week to migrant workers in Simcoe.
The first dinner of 2023 consisting of jumbo hot dogs and hamburgers was available Thursday at Trinity Anglican Church on Colborne Street South, near the Simcoe Town Centre mall.
“Something quick and easy for the workers to grab,” said Sidique Hosein, a volunteer with Huron Farmworkers Ministry, which is leading the initiative.
“They come in on the buses, go grab their groceries, come over here to get a bite to eat, then go back to their farms,” said Diane Hopkins, treasurer of the ministry.
Dinners will continue to be offered Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 8 p.m. until November.
Celebrations are also held in Canada on Father’s Day, Mexico Independence Day, several Caribbean holidays for workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as the Philippines.
Hosein said they expected 100-plus workers on the first night, maybe more. It started slow with two workers from Princeton Farms arriving just before 6 p.m. By the end of the night, Hopkins said they had about 300 workers show up.
“It’s the beginning of the season, it will grow over a period of time,” said Hosein, “as farm workers come for different crops.”
“One of the things we see, the migrant workers don’t really have food security,” said Enrique Martinez, director of Huron Farmworkers Ministry. “That’s one of the biggest problems because you’re going to see workers always eat exactly the same. Like beans and rice or something like that. It’s not because they don’t want other things, it’s because they don’t have the opportunity to buy other things. Usually the money they make… usually they send it to their families.”
Huron Farm Ministry tries to give them something different, said Martinez, something balanced.
“Every Thursday and Friday when they come to Simcoe to do groceries, we want them to come here, relax, have some fellowship, eat, and then go back to their farms and relax, they don’t have to cook.”
“This is just a little way to give them support,” Hopkins nodded.
Not only do they offer food support, they also offer spiritual support.
Last year, Huron Farmworkers Ministry established a drop-in centre in Delhi. Services offered include providing used clothing, toiletries, WIFI access, information regarding Canadian rights and obligations, assisting with health care by providing transportation, and translation services.
“We are trying to make migrant workers visible in the community,” said Hopkins.
“Without migrant workers our economy is going to struggle,” said Martinez. “They work here, they spend money here, they do everything here. They move our economy, they move our communities, they move our people, and without the workers we’re probably going to struggle to have food security in Canada.
“One of the biggest things we see is that the workers help our food security, but they don’t have food security. We try to let the workers know we love you, we are here for you, we support you with food – and that’s just a little thing – but we are also here for spiritual support, mental health support, medical support… so they feel part of the community. So they know we are here for them.”
Last year the ministry expanded its outdoor gardens in Port Rowan with a temporary greenhouse. A bountiful harvest was shared with the migrant workers, the Mission Food Bank serving Port Rowan and the St. Williams area, Sharing Pantry in Delhi, Simcoe Food Bank and the Haldimand/Norfolk Women’s Shelter.
This year once-a-week meals will be offered in Tillsonburg starting in May on Fridays at St. John’s Anglican Church.
In addition, Spanish services are given every Sunday in Port Rowan starting at 5 p.m. followed by a modest meal.
“The viability of this ambitious undertaking relies heavily on our Spanish speaking staff and our ability to recruit much needed volunteers,” said Hopkins. “Volunteers are always welcome…. We also have great need for good used clothing, including warm jackets, toques, ball caps, bikes, garden tools, etc.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can call 1-548-881-5614.