MONTREAL -- With many restaurants in Montreal closing their doors as part of the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, one local establishment is hoping to ramp up food delivery orders to help those who find themselves in financial strife.

Earlier this week, SudWest Gyros & Co. put out a call on social media asking people to help it donate meals to three local organizations: Head and Hands, Sun Youth and Share the Warmth.

“I’ve been worried about this [COVID-19] coming to Montreal for the last 10 days following what’s been happening first in China, and then Italy and Iran,” said Nicholas Tsoukas, one of the owners of SudWest Gyros & Co., adding the restaurant is now only doing take-out or delivery. “We wanted to make sure that people would first prioritize social distancing.”

As a way to help the community, the restaurant has created a ‘buy one, give one’ promotion that people can use when ordering from afar.

It’s a move that hasn’t been easy on the restaurant’s finances, but Tsoukas says now is not the time to be selfish.

“Even us, we don’t have the means [to pay for this]. We ended up crowdsourcing from friends and family,” he told CTV News. “We have staff that we can’t pay; we have staff that we laid off. It’s a terrible, terrible time.”


With the spread of COVID-19 forcing many to self-quarantine and self-isolate, more people are reaching out for help, forcing Share the Warmth to extend its food bank hours.

“We have seen, in the last couple of days, an increase in new members -- people we never saw before, people with no file in our database -- coming and asking for food,” said Vanessa Girard Tremblay, food security coordinator. “People are losing their jobs, but there’s also a panic around low-income people who cannot go to the grocery store and stock food. They feel really anxious.”

She says she believes there are numerous others who may be too shy to ask for help.

“If you don’t have enough money for food, it’s OK to visit your local food bank. It’s a crisis; you're more than welcome. We won’t say, ‘no’ to you. We’re doing our best to serve everyone,” she said. “What we often hear is, ‘There's always someone worse than me.’ I think as a community, we need to be clear that it's OK to ask for help.”


Tsoukas says he is also asking any closed restaurants or establishments that have a surplus of food to consider donating to charities around the city.

“Our goal would be that our message would be spread to other restaurants to join this type of movement to support local and support food banks, especially to make sure the food doesn’t go to waste,” he said.

This kind of initiative is sorely needed right now, according to Stephanie Taillon, executive director of Share the Warmth.

“People are making an effort and we are still accepting food donations. People can leave the food at the door in boxes,” she said. “It will be a struggle at some point. Right now, in the short-term, we’re doing OK, but we will need to foresee what is going to happen in the long-run.”

You can participate in SudWest Gyros & Co.'s ‘buy one, give one’ promotion by saying so upon pick-up, or by adding two gyros to your cart on a food delivery app and writing in the comments that one of them is for donation.

So far, the restaurant has donated more than 100 meals to the organizations.

Anyone looking to donate money or food directly to Share the Warmth, Sun Youth or Head and Hands can visit their websites directly. 


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