From its looks, smells and taste, Red Cedar Cafe on Johnston Street seems like Victoria’s latest addition to the downtown food scene. Only this gourmet cuisine is heading to people in need, for free.
“It started off at about two hundred meals per week and now we’re between a thousand and thirteen hundred,” said Liz Maze, volunteer and communications coordinator at Red Cedar Cafe.
Maze is one of the original founders of the non-profit meal program that launched in mid-April as a way to combat those suffering physically and economically from COVID-19. Red Cedar Cafe now has several community partners and over 150 volunteers.
“It’s everything from bakers and cooks to hospitality industry professionals to community leaders. It’s just a lot of community folks who care,” said Maze.
The meals go to seniors, low-income families, the homeless, and anyone else hit hard from COVID-19. Raw ingredients are sourced by donations from local companies, most of which is excess food which would have been destined for the trash.
“Keeping this stuff out of the garbage and putting it on tables where it’s needed is freaking amazing,” said Ari Laanela, a line cook with the Red Cedar Cafe.
Most of the volunteers are out-of-work hospitality workers, but then there’s Ranie Johnson. She recently graduated with a master’s degree and is an archaeologist by trade. COVID-19 has put her job prospects on hold. With plenty of time available, Johnson turned one of her favourite hobbies into a worthy cause.
“I mean, it’s great. Last week we made banana bread and we were able to put them into the meal delivery plans and people really, really enjoyed it. and fresh baking always makes me happy so I think people really appreciate it,” said Johnson.
As of Thursday, Red Cedar Cafe has delivered its 5,000th meal.
“It’s really exciting for all of us as an organization but it also just shows the big demand and how much of a need there is in the community for an organization and a project like this,” said Maze
“So we really hope to just keep growing and continue to support the community.”
If demand continues, Maze anticipates the 10,000 meal milestone could be reached by the end of the month. For information on how to receive a meal, volunteer or to donate to the cause, visit www.redcedarcafe.com