MANCHESTER — The Salvation Army has expanded its free meal program to help offset the overflow from homeless shelters at capacity due to the coronavirus health crisis.
Capt. Mike Harper, commanding officer of the Manchester corps of the Salvation Army, said Monday that staff and volunteers are feeding up to 200 people a day through Kids Cafe and Mobile Joes programs.
The Kids Cafe program has continued serving children in the weeks since New Hampshire shuttered public schools and shifted to online learning.
Before the health crisis, Mobile Joes was a program that provided hot coffee and sandwiches that Salvation Army staff and volunteers distributed around town.
Harper credited his staff and volunteers, who still report daily and potentially put themselves at risk to meet a public need.
“They’re taking all the precautions that one can take, wearing masks and gloves,” Harper said. “The food is set down on the table. People walk up to the table and take the food and then go away. They don’t congregate around here to eat it.”
Monday started the third week of the expanded service at the corps offices at 121 Cedar St. It provides a hot meal for homeless people from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Kids Cafe meals are available from 5-6 p.m. on weekdays.
“Serving food during times of disaster and calamity, making sure people have food to eat and things like that, is one of the many ministries that the Salvation Army is known for and what we do very well,” Harper said.
Harper said the need for the expanded meal service arose last month after New Horizons soup kitchen temporarily halted its evening meals to anyone except residents of its homeless shelter.
He said the Salvation Army has also continued its delivery services for the elderly and others who are unable to get out for essentials.
“It feels good. We’re doing it as safely as we can,” he said. “If people need help, we’re still open, but they have to call and make an appointment.”