Thursday May 18, 2023 | NANAIMO, BC [Updated May 19, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
A new Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank warehouse in Nanaimo will help people get access to fresh, nutritious food, and boost food recovery and delivery services across Vancouver Island.
“We all everybody to have fresh nutritious food that they need to get by,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. She noted families, kids at school, people going to working.
That has been challenged absolutely by the intensely increased cost of food due to global inflation.
“More people will get good nutritious food on more Vancouver Island tables when Loaves and Fishes expands food redistribution with our funding.”
City of Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog hosted the funding announcement today.
$7 million in BC dollars:
Supported by a $7-million contribution by the Province toward the cost of building the new Loaves and Fishes warehouse, and a 30-year lease for the land from the City of Nanaimo for $10, the new warehouse will expand Loaves and Fishes’ food collection and distribution capacity.
Distribution will run from Ladysmith to Port Alberni to Comox and up to Port Hardy. The expanded services and infrastructure will provide reliable access to food, while dramatically reducing food waste in the region.
Malcolmson outlined that the $7 million announced today has been earmarked from within $49 million for the Poverty Reduction ministry initiatives (some of which went to Food Banks BC and United Way BC) which comes from within a $200 million food sustainability announcement made March 7, 2023 in Vancouver by Premier David Eby and Agriculture and Food Minister Pam Alexis along with Malcolmson. The $200 million is a one-time boost from the 2022-2023 surplus, a fiscal scenario that is not likely to be seen again any time soon in BC.
“Loaves and Fishes was identified as a standout organization,” said Malcolmson. “This is very much a central and northern Vancouver Island announcement” she said, adding that “Loaves and Fishes is ahead of many other food serving organization to redistribute food and work with grocery stores and provide some school for SD68 school lunch program”.
She emphasized that provincial government funding support to for communities to be assisted in “ways that work for their communities”.
Client load higher, client load profile:
As a result of the increasingly upward cost of food as well as housing, the food bank has been seeing more and never-before clients in the last year. “Single men are experiencing deepening poverty. They are in some intractable pockets of deepening poverty,” said Minister Malcolmson, though she noted that “the poverty rate has been decreased across BC, particularly among children”.
Immigrants, newcomers and Ukrainian refugees are part of the increased impact on food bank resources, said Malcolmson. She also noted the downturn of forestry jobs in some areas of the province. She described these as “pockets of people who have never had to access food banks before”.
“These people have never had to access a food bank before,” she said, emphasizing it’s being done “in a way that works for their communities”.
That’s even as the BC government has provided many supports over the past year or two as global inflation has pushed up the cost of living has increased far out of proportion with the incomes of many working and middle-income people.
Malcolmson pointed out that those supports include the series of direct affordability credits to British Columbians in 2022 and 2023 based on income profiles, the BC Hydro credit that went to all British Columbians in January 2023, four increases in the social assistance rates since 2017, and increasing the child care payment rate, and the BC Child Benefit. But even that hasn’t been enough, for some people, who have been seriously outpaced by the increased cost of food.
Custom work by Loaves and Fishes:
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people” who are using the food bank, said Peter Sinclair, executive director, Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank today, noting that this year the client load is up by 40 to 50 percent each month compared to the same months of 2022.
Sinclair called that a “significant burden and challenge for us” but that they are committed to working to “maximize the food that we are able to provide”.
Loaves and Fishes supplies food markets and through partnerships with about a hundred agencies across Vancouver Island. He gave the example of how some agencies need food support for just a couple of families, and how Loaves and Fishes appreciates the opportunity to be of customized service in that way. He highlighted how local schools are provided $100,000 worth of food every year for kids who receive support through school programs.
At Loaves and Fishes they are seeing an increase in demographic levels “across the board”, from “people on the street to people who never in a million years thought that they would need to use the food bank and are just struggling to make their mortgage payments”.
“Price inflation is obviously a serious driver of that,” said Sinclair, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure as much food available to people who need it,” he told media.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have expanded our services to more communities in need across Vancouver Island. And there is a lot of food out there, in fact, more than enough to feed everyone,” said Sinclair. “With this investment from government, we will be able to scale up our current operation to serve more people on the Island and help reduce food insecurity in our communities and make sure that food gets to the people who need it most.”
In the pandemic eggs were delivered weekly in large volume to Loaves and Fishes and there was a problem to achieve proper storage and handling. “But it was a good problem to have,” said Sinclair, noting that required vision and creativity.
The new 2,300 square-metre (25,000 sq ft) warehouse will contain food recovery and distribution operations to rural and Indigenous communities throughout Vancouver Island.
It will also include a reception area and offices, as well as a storage area for food, a pickup location, and a sorting area for their recycling program Empties 4 Food, which uses proceeds to provide healthy and nutritious food for people in Nanaimo.
Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank started food collection in 2012 and has continued to grow every year. The collected food is sorted by staff and a team of over 200 volunteers per month.
Food unfit for people is directed to farmers for livestock and compost. Currently there is a profile of 31 personnel on the Loaves and Fishes staff page.
Funding from levels of government:
The City of Nanaimo has been a steady funding partner for Loaves and Fishes, as outlined by Sinclair. He said the city first provided $69,000 in December 2012 to purchase first the first warehouse, then $275,000 to get the current warehouse a few years later. Loaves and Fishes looked for land when realized they needed a new facility to be built; the City has signed a lease along with Loaves and Fishes, costing the food bank just $10.
The regional level of government ha provided $300,000 to help the new warehouse become a reality, on top of the province’s $7 million.
Now Loaves and Fishes hopes for a federal government contribution. The amount needed is $5 million.
“The support Loaves and Fishes have given me has really resulted in an explosion of abundance in my life combined with my own gratitude my outlook is so positive now,” said Tim Cassidy, beneficiary of Loaves and Fishes food distribution program. “I just don’t know where I would be without everyone’s support. This is so much more than a food bank.”
Problem of food abundance, not shortage:
“People talk about food shortage issues in the world, but we don’t have that, we have a food wastage issue,” said Deborah Murray, A-Frame Church in Port McNeill. “Without Loaves and Fishes, this food would have probably gone to the dump.”
Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank is a local non-profit organization headquartered in Nanaimo. It was selected by Food Banks BC to become the national food sharing distribution hub for Vancouver Island.
Similar operation in Victoria:
There is a similar food distribution warehouse and processing facility in Victoria.
That facility also collects ‘rescue food’ from local grocery stores and restaurants and also uses the facility as a training venue for people to learn skills for employment in the food preparation sector.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is professional regional journalism presented at islandsocialtrends.ca. Fully online as a daily news portal since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the path of previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, journalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to reporting and analyzing the news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC and national news impacts. [See Island Social Trends Politics Archive]. She has covered the details of local, provincial and federal elections since 2008. As of 2023 Mary P Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery.
Mary P Brooke has also focused on news of School District 62 (Langford, Colwood and Sooke) at the board level since 2014 [see Island Social Trends Education archive] and has covered West Shore Parks & Recreation over the years (particularly the transitional years 2014-2020, and again starting 2023). During 2020 and 2021 she reported daily on BC’s COVID pandemic news to build the ongoing COVID pandemic archive. Since 2021 she has been building a Food Security news archive. She is now covering the 2023 Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election.