Keeping the shelves stocked at Vancouver Island’s largest food bank isn’t easy — especially at this time of year.

“Our donations are down in the summer,” explains Derek Pace, interim executive director of the Mustard Seed Food Bank. “Families have children home so the need increases and the donations decrease.”

That’s why Merry Maids Victoria and the Island Nut Roastery launched “Project Peanut Butter” four years ago, collecting hundreds of jars of this protein-packed food bank staple to help fill the Mustard Seed warehouse just in time for summer.

“Families are away on holidays, schools are closed, so that’s why we’re doing it this time of year,” says Matt Tanner of Merry Maids Victoria. “It’s the end of the school year and we want to be able to support the people in our community.”

And this year, they’ll help more people than ever before thanks to a record 2,000 jars of P.B. — weighing in at 2,500 pounds or more than 1,100 kilograms.

“It takes many people to make this happen and it’s just amazing that we raised 2,000 jars,” says Tanner. “We didn’t expect that when we first started!”

Organizers say the support of customers and a large donation from Uplands Golf Course means they were able to double the what they collected the first year.

“Every year we’ve grown and added more peanut butter we’re able to donate and it’s great to be able to give back to a community that’s been very supportive of us,” says Island Nut Roastery owner Max Young.

“It’s amazing to receive this much peanut butter,” Pace says. “It’s a well-needed protein, something we’re always looking for, and it has a long shelf life so we’re ecstatic it’s coming in.”

The Mustard Seed Food Bank helps around 5,000 people a month and it also works with 45 other local agencies to provide fresh and nutritious food in the community, impacting more than 35,000 people every month.

But when it comes to hampers, there are some key staples the Mustard Seed always needs.

“We can always use easy-to-make meals, rice, and proteins like tuna and peanut butter,” explains Pace. “Other products we need this time of year are hygiene products and feminine hygiene —we’re always looking for those.”

Tess van Straaten