Kingston Corner: Martha's Table

An opportunity to give back to the city you’ll call home for four years 

Walking down Alfred Street towards Princess Street, I tend to only turn left when grabbing dinner at my favourite Thai food restaurant. The other day, I had a different destination. 

Martha’s Table is a non-profit organization and community center that has been run by volunteers and dedicated staff, feeding the hungry in Kingston for the past 20 years. Dinner at the cozy kitchen costs $1 for adults and children eat for free. 

Left of Alfred Street has a different feel to it than the downtown area more often frequented by students. There are fewer storefronts and seemingly less people. Martha’s Table is one of the busier establishments. 

Entering the house, I was immediately greeted with a box labeled “Please Take.” It was filled with loaves of bread. 

As I emerged from the staircase, I was welcomed with the loud chatter, just as you would hear at any café and the smell of sandwiches and coffee. 

People were talking around the tables, using the computers and snacking on pastries. All provided, for free, by Martha’s Table.  

“When you have limited financial means, the first thing you lose is choice, so we’re trying to offer those choices to people through our drop in center,” Ronda Candy, Executive Director for Martha’s Table, told The Journal.

The not for profit organization relies solely on the community’s individual donors and businesses. 

“We like to call it Martha’s Magic,” Candy explained.  

“One day, for example, a caterer dropped off extra lamb chops, which isn’t something we have often. I was joking around saying it would be nice to have mint for our lamb chops and then about an hour later a man banged on our side door holding two tubs of mint jelly asking if we could use it.” 

At 9:30 a.m. each weekday morning, volunteers put on freshly laundered aprons and hairnets and begin prepping that night’s dinner. Many of them are students who make the trip regularly to help out in the kitchen. 

As someone who considers cooking to be boiling an egg, I was admittedly nervous to begin cooking for others. I was set to work chopping vegetables, stuffing peppers and sweeping the kitchen floor, alongside other volunteers.

While most of my cooking was (thankfully) uneventful, as I neared the end of filling the peppers with stuffing, I noticed I was running low. I knew there wasn’t enough to refill and so I started stuffing each pepper less generously. 

It was then that I started to panic. While the stuffed pepper wasn’t the entire meal, what if it was the defining factor of whether or not someone would go to sleep hungry? 

As I entered the dining room to set the tables, my eyes were immediately drawn to the walls covered in photos, displaying the experience of hunger through the eyes of Martha’s Table patrons. There were photos of ketchup packets, ramen noodles, an abundance of McDonald’s among other food items. 

My experience at Martha’s Table is just one of the many ways to get involved. Martha’s Table is always looking for volunteers for any amount of time you’re willing to commit. 

Other opportunities exist for students to get involved, including a similar student-run initiative called Good Times Diner that operates out of St. Andrews Church or Soul Food, another student run initiative that delivers surplus food from campus cafeterias to shelters in Kingston. 

For a few hours, I stepped away from my schoolwork, job and other responsibilities and focused on doing something for the Kingston community. It was an experience that made me feel better about my place in the community and my ability to give back. 

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