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Free lunch program at Hope Chapel nourishes hundreds of students

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More than 200 students from Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School make their way to Hope Chapel and receive a free lunch or baked goods during their lunch hour every Monday through Friday.

"The renewal of what's happening here today started in 2020 during COVID. We decided that we were going to open a warming station for as many as we could at a time," said Jane Peck, Hope Chapel minister.

Some students in attendance said they come every day on their lunch hour and have for the past year.

"My favourite part about coming here is definitely the hot chocolate, and I come because they're really nice and they're really good to us," said a Grade 10 student from Collingwood Collegiate Institute.

Students sit at a table inside Hope Chapel in Collingwood, Ont., on Wed., Nov. 8, 2023, eating hotdogs and drinking hot chocolate as part of a lunch program. (CTV News/Molly Frommer)

"I think it's pretty cool that the workers here give out free hotdogs, and they worked really hard to give us this stuff," said another student.

Others said they realize that if it weren't for this lunch program, some of their classmates wouldn't be eating at all.

"I'm glad that they're doing it because there's some teenagers that don't eat breakfast or that don't have enough money to buy lunch, so it's good, I like it," said a Collingwood Collegiate Institute student.

Officials said the need has grown over the years.

"Food costs are soaring, and we have seen an increase in students who come in really needing something to eat," said Peck.

The OPP is also involved in this program and said this is one way to interact with students and create a positive relationship.

"If the only time these kids see us and when they are involved with us is when it's negative, then they get a bad impression of what police officers really do. So, our goal is to make those positive relationships and make students comfortable with the police," said Christine Dineen, with the OPP.

Over the past two years, Living Water Resort has donated $20,000 toward the lunch program.

Organizers said in order to continue the daily lunch program, they are still in need of roughly a dozen volunteers as well as sponsorships.

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