Feeding hungry bellies and healing souls: Operation Feed looks to expand

Click to play video: 'With over 100,000 meals delivered to families, Operation Feed Saint John seeks support'
With over 100,000 meals delivered to families, Operation Feed Saint John seeks support
A Saint John group is fighting hunger in the region and helping veterans at the same time. As Nathalie Sturgeon reports, Operation Feed Saint John has served more than 100,000 meals but is beginning to face challenges due to limited space. The group is now asking the city's council for additional support as they try to respond to increased demand, as Saint John struggles with the highest child poverty rates in the country – Aug 4, 2023

When Patrick Gordon returned from the war in Afghanistan, he found himself in a dark place.

He had seen the brutalities of war-time and was injured while overseas, having hit an improvised explosive device. As time went on, and he began to see the haze of his mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder and decided he wanted to give back.

Gordon is the founder of Operation Feed, originally named Operation Feed Saint John (OFSJ).

“Seeing what real poverty was and seeing what this world, the dark side of our world, and then coming home and realizing like, hey, this is in our own backyard as well, you know, I have the ability to change that so let’s do it,” Gordon said.

The organization feeds families and children living in poverty. Since its inception, it has provided 100,000 meals – 50 at a time.

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Saint John has the highest levels of child poverty in the country, about 33 per cent, according to the organization’s website. That’s almost double the national average.

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But as it feeds the needs of hunger, it also feeds veterans and first responders with a space to find purpose and give back. Gordon felt strongly about including first responders, who are often left out of the support provided to those in the military.

“We’re promoting veterans and first responders to heal by getting involved in their community and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone,” he said. “Our mission statement is to feed the bellies of the most vulnerable and feed the mind, body and soul of veterans and emergency workers.”

The organization has paramedics and even nurses volunteering their time.

However, Gordon said OFSJ needs more support. It’s looking to create a stand-alone space to allow for more food and to help establish a wellness centre for volunteers.

Right now, OFSJ is running out of a small space in Kings Church in Quispamsis.

“Our goal is to create a wellness centre that will have gym, a peer support, a rec area,” he said. “It will have our clinicians, massage, physical and mental therapy, we want to put hot and cold therapy and make it exclusive to veterans and first responders with a small membership fee of $75 a month and that membership fee becomes a sustainable piece of our Operation Feed.”

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The membership fees would directly pay for food and for the facility itself.

For Gordon, it’s partially about creating a sense of purpose for people who are often left out of the supports they need when recovering from on-the-job trauma.

“We’re promoting our veterans and first responders to healing by giving back to their community,” he said, acknowledging there must be robust investments into the care for both veterans and first responders mental and physical health.

Gordon has set up a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $2 million.

He also made an appeal to Saint John City Council for support but hasn’t received any feedback on whether support is forthcoming following his presentation last month.

“We’re only doing 50 bags of food right now, but we want to do 500 or as many as our community needs,” he said.

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