Nanaimo food bank calls for federal funding for new distribution centre


The Loaves and Fishes Food Bank in Nanaimo is looking to the federal government for a final piece of funding to make a new distribution centre a reality.

The food bank has greatly expanded the amount of food it recovers and gives to people and organizations in need across Vancouver Island, but it needs more space to do the work.

It serves more than 30 communities, including 14 Indigenous communities, across the Island, which is a massive undertaking.

“We’re running 330,000 pounds of food a month through this warehouse, and even in doing that, we’re only collecting about 18 per cent of the food waste that’s happening across Vancouver Island,” said Abby Sauchuk, Loaves and Fishes’ director of development.

“We’re having a massive food security crisis on Vancouver Island, but at the same time, we’re throwing away millions of pounds of food a year.”

With a 25,000-square-foot distribution centre, more than four times its current space, the food bank says it would be perfectly positioned to recover even more food for those in need as demand increases.

It’s received funding for the project from every level of government except federally. In May, the province announced it was contributing $7 million.

It’s asking for $7 million from Ottawa, up from an initial ask of $5 million. The increase is being driven by inflation.

“Costs have gone up $2 million from August 2023, so that gives you an example. The concrete alone is up over $350,000 more than it was last year,” said Sauchuk.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s MP Lisa Marie Barron recently raised the need in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

“Loaves and Fishes is beyond capacity and requires federal funding and building a distribution centre to keep up with demand,” said Barron.

“Mr. Speaker, will the prime minister provide this funding so that people on Vancouver Island are not left to go hungry?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded, saying, “We’ve stepped up our supports as a federal government to food banks and organizations serving the most vulnerable right across the country and we’ll continue to.”

In a statement Infrastructure Canada said “…we encourage the Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank Society to stay informed of upcoming funding opportunities as we lay the groundwork for future infrastructure funding.”

Loaves and Fishes says it’s only constrained in recovering more food by the amount of space it has. It’s urging people to send emails and letters to the federal government.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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