Bahamas Feeding Network Volunteers Serving Up Hot Meals and Hope at 5 Nassau Shelters
Vowing “We will be there until the last person finds another place to call home,” Bahamas Feeding Network executive director Philip Smith said today that the feeding organization was now providing hot meals for five shelters in Nassau while continuing to work at Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s field kitchen in Grand Bahama.
“The volunteers are absolutely amazing,” said Smith, whose 6-year-old network is doing 150 meals a day for each of five shelters in Nassau while maintaining its presence on the ground in Grand Bahama where volunteers are helping with the land-based kitchen the cruise company set up after nearly 10 days of diverting ships daily to prepare and deliver hot meals to survivors of the historic Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.
“We also need to keep thanking Royal Caribbean,” Smith added. “They have been incredible, providing the food for Nassau and 20,000 hot meals a day in Grand Bahama. During a normal week, it’s Royal Caribbean’s generosity that largely lets us prepare and provide up to 5,000 meals a week.” Volunteers prep, cook and plate those meals twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays, operating out of a modest cottage on Fox Hill Road.
Now, BFN volunteers have added the Fox Hill Community Centre, a temporary home to more than 200 evacuees, almost all from Abaco. They are also cooking for and distributing hot meals to the Cavalry Haitian Baptist Church Community Center, All Saints Anglican Church, the Pilgrim Baptist Church and Bahamas Academy Centre.
“I lost everything, couldn’t save nothing,” said one evacuee from Dundas Town, Abaco who was filled with uncertainty of the duration of time she would be housed in the shelter after arriving to Nassau via a Bahamas Ferries vessel. “It was hard, but thank God we made it through. I wouldn’t want anyone to experience what we experienced.”
The effort drew high praise from Fox Hill MP Shonel Ferguson.
“For many who are here with us at the Fox Hill Community Centre, the sight of the Bahamas Feeding Network van pulling up means more than just a hot meal,” said Ferguson, who has all but lived at the shelter since the post-storm evacuation began. “They know that the volunteers from the Feeding Network are also coming to share compassion and words of healing and hope.”
Smith worries about the longer-term impact of displacement.
“Before there was even a storm called Dorian, one in every seven persons or so in The Bahamas was living under the poverty level of less than $11.64 a day,” said Smith. “Now we have thousands of persons who were displaced. They don’t have a home to go back to, a job to report to, a future that has any kind of certainty. We need to be there for them in every way we can and if that means serving hope along with hot meals, we will do that until the very last person in a shelter has another place to call home.”
Founded in 2013, the Bahamas Feeding Network has grown steadily. Today it preps, cooks and distributes more than 5,500 hot meals a week through a network of more than 100 churches, soup kitchens and feeding organization and 500 parcels of groceries. Additionally, more than $500,000 in food vouchers have been distributed over the years.