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Peterborough restaurant provides free meals on Easter for less fortunate

Click to play video: 'Peterborough restaurant gives out hundreds of free Easter meals'
Peterborough restaurant gives out hundreds of free Easter meals
The owner of a Peterborough, Ont., restaurant, the Original Spaghetti House Pizzeria, made it his mission to hand out around a thousand free meals on Easter Sunday to those in need. Germain Ma has his story. – Mar 31, 2024

A restaurant owner in Peterborough, Ont., says he’ll continue to serve up free meals to the less fortunate for as long he can as he did once again on Easter Sunday.

Over a four-hour span, Ilir Sino and his staff at the Original Spaghetti House Pizzeria on George Street served hundreds of meals, complete with dessert, to individuals in need.

“I’ll not stop feeding them,” Sino said. “Even if we come to the point where we lose the businesses, I’m going to cook from my home to feed them.”

The Spaghetti House began handing out free meals two years ago — a tradition that has continued each Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Sino says the idea was triggered after he and his wife one day noticed individuals outside an emergency homeless shelter in the city.

“That Christmas we were planning to go to Montreal. She said we are going to cancel our trip to Montreal,” Sino said. “We are going to open the doors to the restaurant to all the people in need.”

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Sino says he knows first-hand the challenges of living with less, recalling a time he was sleeping in his van. He currently owns the restaurant and Sino’s Fine Foods, which offers homemade cuisine in soups, sauces, salads and appetizers.

“Between divorce, bad investment, I hit the ground very bad,” he said. “I was embarrassed to panhandle in Peterborough. I used to go to Cobourg. I don’t give because I have, I give because I know what it means to not have.”

Joshua and Michelle, who asked not to provide their last names, often pick up meals and serve them to individuals in the community who may not be aware of Sino’s gesture. Both say they have past experience with poverty and/or being homeless.

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“Growing up, in my past, I had help,” said Michelle. “I learned to live outside — not to the capacity of other folks but I know what it’s like to not have a meal to make some right decisions or go through things you have to go through during the days.

“Sometimes a meal and a full belly helps make other harder things easier to go through,” she added.

Joshua says they try to help individuals who do not have housing and may not be able to physically visit the restaurant for fear of leaving their belongings behind.

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“We try not to bother people but just ask ‘hey could you use a hot meal?’,” he said.”Why not, it’s a basic human need. Even if it’s only on the holidays that we’re able to take advantage of the generosity of Ilir — we’re going to utilize it when it’s available.”

Sino’s staff also recognize the importance of giving back to the community, including crew member Monu Sharma.

“As an international student, sometimes I feel like I have no money and not any things to eat,” he said. “Sometimes I sleep with an empty stomach. I know how people feel.”

But Sino believes his avenue of giving doesn’t sit well with some customers, noting dining room business has plummeted.

“My dining room business just died,” he said. “Some people are saying, ‘We don’t feel comfortable to come and dine because the homeless people are there.'”

But that won’t deter Sino, who says he sees new faces at the restaurant during the meal giveaways.

“My main concern is feeding people and giving them what they don’t have,” he said. “I’m not worried about the cost.”

His next meal giveaway will be during Thanksgiving.

To support Sino’s efforts, customers can also donate to the Spaghetti House’s meal ticket program, which helps give people in need food year-round.

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