Sunday, October 26, 2014

This place sucks: st Stephens in the fields Sunday morning breakfast

Coming up on the third if what's sure to be a long series of articles about Toronto's soup kitchens and the special ways in which each of them brings us all to a new low every time we use them... and it's time to shake down st Stephen in the field.

So the theme of their breakfast is finger food. They have one bathroom for each gender so there's always a line, so there's no chance to wash your hands. Just like the shepherd we got hard boiled eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, a bit of fruit... and apparently they would have to break the law in order to provide a hand washing sink in the dining room. Whether it's true or not, whether they believe it or not, that's what they're telling people. That's hilarious: the government making sure it's hard for soup kitchen users to wash our hands.

Apparently they'll renovate their bathrooms soon. In the meantime, maybe they'll start trying to force us to use antibacterial gel on our way in... you know, the toxic kind that destroys the olfactory system of anyone in a the meter radius. Makes it easier to ignore the taste of the food, I guess is the idea. United on ronces and Wright is pretty famous for being total Nazis about that, even though they're the only place where it's dead easy to wash your hands on the way in.

The other thing is, of course this is generally true for all these places, there is no signage effort on the building. It's like they're trying to keep it a secret, or make it so people don't try to come alone when it's their first time.

And then of course it sucks that it's cramped, and there's always some one sketching out, tweaking out, whatever it is, all over the place and staff can't do anything to keep the space chilled. The runoff from our society's whole human sewage system gets dumped on these poor Christians who just want to do something nice and maybe raise some money for their church. We get dumped on them because government workers sent us to them. There was never an effort to determine and provide a food budget to people in their benefits packages, and there's no plan for us eating all our meals at these sad, sketchy, far flung spots.


  1. I think what you are doing is a great way to call to attention the need for a revision in meal programs in Toronto. I'm putting together a small initiative that aims to help in that respect. I can't seem to find a contact for anyone on the site, but I'd love to get your opinion on which soup kitchens and meal programs need the most help in Toronto right now. You can email me at

  2. Yeah, this is the only way to get in touch. None of them are OK. The most dangerously fucked at this point are probably the Shepherd and the St. Stephen's corner drop-in... and the Meeting Place... but the rest are not far behind. None of these places is safe. Maybe The Stop is actually clean, and the 519. Other than that, they're not clean. Ever. When it seems like they're overstaffed it's just because volunteers, and they're temporary, so they can only do certain things. The actual staff do inhuman things and live an unlivable lifestyle to stretch everything out so they don't have to close their doors and they can still get the funding they need to keep feeding people. And it's not just that they don't get enough food, it's that the food isn't foody enough. Again, the 519 and The Stop break the mould, but everywhere else, apart from the odd donation of actual food, is relying on the daily bread and second harvest, two organizations that have become exceptionally good at organizing, transporting and delivering shitty food. Food Share, on the other hand, actually has access to real food. So there's a mix of desperate bullshit and really exciting hopeful developments, but nothing hopeful on the security or universal access front. If you are not an omnivore or you have any food allergies, there's no point going in the first place. The veggie version of the dish? Oh, it's the same dish except without the meat and with more lettuce. Yeah, because that works. Sure. And it's still full of milk. None of these places can accommodate a dairy allergy. If you get sleep apnea from dairy-related congestion, you have to choose between sleep and food.