Good Times Diner pivots to take-out meals during pandemic

First community dinner will be hosted on Sunday

The ASUS Good Times Diner is a student-run soup kitchen.
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The ASUS Good Times Diner is hosting its first community dinner on Sunday—now as take-out.

The Good Times Diner is a student-run soup kitchen that aims to support the Queen’s and Kingston communities by fighting food insecurity. 

Siobhan Wilson, Good Times Diner’s outreach coordinator, told The Journal food insecurity is “a measurement of hunger risk, generally related to financial ability [or] socioeconomic status.” 

Food insecurity can be characterized by destructive eating habits and lack of access to food that meets dietary or cultural requirements, as well as not having enough to eat. The latter is the better-known type of food insecurity, but the others are no less pervasive.

READ MORE: Report finds food insecurity among female-identified graduate students, international students

Across Canada, 30 to 40 per cent of post-secondary students struggle with food insecurity and, as Wilson pointed out, not having enough food has wide-ranging effects from “[serving] as a barrier to getting good grades, being healthy and active, to also decreasing the rate of graduation.” 

According to Wilson, the need for student access to services like soup kitchens is stronger because of cuts to OSAP and the Queen’s Work Study program in the past few years, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on students’ ability to find work. 

This year, the Good Times Diner has moved its operations to Chalmers United Church, which is located closer to campus. 

It’s also made a big pivot to increase accessibility to its services during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering take-out. The diner is serving its first take-out dinner this Sunday. 

It’s put in a lot of work this year, according to Good Times Diner Co-Director Mitul Karmaker, to make sure that “both the people who use the service and [the] volunteers are also safe.” 

The diner is complying with all local COVID-19 safety protocols by providing personal protective equipment for volunteers and placing signs to enforce mask-wearing and facilitate physical distancing protocol for patrons. 

Karmaker told The Journal that getting to their first take-out dinner took “a lot of communication of guidelines and rules to ensure that [they] are able to be both safe and cater to the COVID-19 guidelines while fulfilling [their] mandate.” 

The diner’s mandate is to serve free, nutritious meals to students and residents of the Kingston community and provide a safe, welcoming environment for patrons and volunteers. 

With the switch to take-out food services, the Good Times Diner team is hoping more people will feel comfortable getting the help they need. 

READ MORE: COVID-19 increasing food insecurity among students & Kingston community

Febri Kurniawan, the other co-director of the Good Times Diner, told The Journal the volunteers at the diner are committed to creating a “warm and welcoming environment through actions and words,” even when their smiles are hidden behind masks to keep everyone safe. 

Kurniawan pointed out that the take-out format promotes confidentiality, which may lead to higher turnout for meals because “students experiencing any form of food insecurity might not want to be known.” 

While the diner is required to collect the names of people who register, this information will only be used for contact tracing purposes.

The diner will be serving dinner on Sunday evenings, starting on Oct. 18, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Takeout service is at the front entrance of Chalmers United Church, 212 Barrie Street.

For those who need access to the Good Times Diner’s services, the link to the registration form can be found on its Facebook or Instagram page. There will be a small number of meals available for walk-ins. 

For those hoping to get involved, the diner is looking to expand its services and hire more volunteers in the winter term. 

For those who aren’t in Kingston this year, Kurniowan suggested helping the cause by learning more about food insecurity to help break down the stigma that often surrounds it, and checking to see if there are any services like the Good Times Diner near you. 

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