Whoever coined the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” has obviously never been to one of Union Gospel Mission’s annual barbeques in Oppenheimer Park. Five thousand hamburger patties, bags of chips and cans of iced tea plus 900 pounds each of coleslaw and fruit salad are on the menu for the upcoming weekend’s picnic, and it’s worth noting the burgers aren’t of the cheap frozen variety commonly found at many outdoor summer cookouts.
Instead, volunteer chefs from the high-end Glowbal Restaurant Group (which includes Sanafir, Trattoria, Black+Blue, Society, Coast, Glowbal Grill and Italian Kitchen) are the ones taking care of the cooking at the newly renovated park in the Downtown Eastside.
"This will be our third year partnering with UGM and every year we have hundreds of
restaurant staff, business colleagues and friends volunteer their time," said Glowbal CEO Emad Yacoub in a press release. “We are grateful for the amazing response from our recent volunteer call-out … and look forward to welcoming members of the Vancouver community who are aligned in our passion to promote positive change."
Longtime UGM volunteer Karen Fleming said she always looks forward to the annual cookout in the country’s poorest neighbourhood.
"The summer barbecue is especially fun-like a large family event, with a
diverse group of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds," she said. "It is a great chance for us to step outside of our doors and be present in a safe place within the community."
In addition to enjoying a meal, families are invited to bring their kids and enjoy games, cotton candy, arts and crafts, and even an inflatable bouncy castle.
"When a meal is among friends and family, it is never just about food," said UGM chaplain Bruce Curtiss. "Community in this context communicates a sense of belonging. This restores feelings of hope and safety, making it possible for vulnerable people to open up and trust others again."
The event might also help offset some of the negative publicity Glowbal has attracted after a recent CBC TV report claimed its managers force servers to pay them a percentage of their tips. Yacoub has since filed a lawsuit against the CBC and Go Public reporter Kathy Tomlinson for defamation.
The picnic takes place Saturday, Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oppenheimer Park is located Cordova Street between Dunlevy and Jackson.