A couple from the southeast has been helping keep the freezers full at Steinbach Community Outreach (SCO) with pre-made meals.

Office Manager at SCO, Charlene Kroeker says the couple is Dale and Mary Toms.

“They have been volunteering with us for quite a while, and usually when they come in, they come in with coolers and cart-loads full, and she was keeping track, and she said, “So you know, we've done 1500 so far.” And I'm like, “What?” So, that was a bit surprising.”

Kroeker says the couple has been volunteering at Outreach for a number of years, “and basically what they do is, they package up heat-and-eat casseroles for us to hand out to our hungry friends. The meals can be thawed, warmed up in a microwave or oven, and enjoyed!”

Long-time volunteer cooks, Dale and Mary Toms with a freezer-meal donation (Photo credit: SCO Instagram)Long-time volunteer cooks, Dale and Mary Toms with a freezer-meal donation (Photo credit: SCO Instagram)

She notes that SCO often gets donations of food from catered events like weddings or funerals, and then they package it up.

“We will get meat and stuff donated, and then we'll fry that up and make lasagnas. Or we get pork roast from Hy-life, or Country Meats also donates a lot. Then we get a lot of different vegetables, like from Scatters and other community gardeners. So, all of that stuff gets put together, we then we make them into casseroles.”

Kroeker says the freezer-meals will have at least two servings each and get handed out when an individual comes to pick up their weekly food hamper.

“A typical food hamper is a casserole, a soup, which is also donated from restaurants then repackaged. And we add bread, produce, and whatever extras we have we’ll also hand out along with cookies, and sometimes muffins.”

Kroeker acknowledges what it means to their guests to receive the food hampers and the especially the freezer-meals.

“It means a lot for them because they also access other food programs here in town, but especially with the rising cost of groceries, they really can't afford to feed their families all the time. And so, this just adds at least one meal that they can add to their arsenal, food that they don't have to go out and pay for if they don't have enough money.”

“I mean, people that come here, they're choosing between buying their groceries that week or paying their hydro, right? Or they're choosing between buying a parka for their kid and buying groceries for their kid if we can help with a little bit of food, they can put that money to other things.”

Kroeker recognizes and appreciates all the volunteers at Steinbach Community Outreach.

“They are amazing. We had over 110 volunteers in 2023, and a good chunk of those are what we call ‘cooks’. The people who assemble the casseroles. So, they'll come in, put together all this stuff, and then we'll freeze it in our freezers and hand it out. So that these folks volunteer their time means a lot to us.”