Over the past 14 winters, the Municipality of Jasper, in partnership with community businesses and organizations, has hosted a weekly Community Dinner program.
Beginning as a program to help seasonal workers gain access to healthy, home-cooked meals every week, the program has now turned into a community-wide event. Between 250 and 500 people attend the Community Dinner each week. Every meal is ‘by donation’ to allow people to access a free meal if they need it. The meal is cooked by volunteers, which change week-to-week as different businesses, organizations and groups of residents step-up to host the dinner.
Jasper’s Community Dinner program offers more than food. It plays a vital role in the community by:
- Involving ethno-cultural minorities, which allows residents of all backgrounds the opportunity to connect and build relationships in a friendly environment. As an example, in spring 2017, two newly-settled Syrian refugee families cooked a Syrian-themed dinner, which was the highest-attended dinner in the community’s history.
- Connecting community members to reduce loneliness and social isolation in the winter months, which has been especially important for senior citizens and people with mobility challenges.
- Improving the nutritional status of young, seasonal workers who may not have the means to eat healthy.
- Building a sense of community for both local residents and seasonal workers.
The program continues to grow thanks to the commitment of community volunteers. It remains financially sustainable due to the donations of users and the Municipality of Jasper, which contributes up to $2,000 per year to help purchase food if donations are low.
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