Nicole Bennett, Nanaimo BIKES program manager, says the Society for Equity, Inclusion and Advocacy, will have a food bike at Maffeo Sutton Park offering snacks. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo non-profit hopes food bike hits the right ‘buttons’

Society for Equity, Inclusion and Advocacy launching Nanaimo BIKES program

A Nanaimo non-profit is hoping to hit the right ‘buttons’ as it embarks on a venture that will see it sell snacks from a bicycle.

Society for Equity, Inclusion and Advocacy just received approval from the City of Nanaimo to operate as a licensed food cart and will run its inaugural Nanaimo BIKES (Building Inclusion, Kindness and Equity through Snacks) program, with a bike/cart, which will be situated at Maffeo Sutton Park and Diana Krall Plaza throughout the summer.

Eighty per cent of products sold are from women-owned businesses. All items are from within the province, and from the Island where possible, said Nicole Bennett, program manager. Crackers, low-sugar candy, dried fruit, frozen treats and drinks are among the “delicious, wholesome products,” she said.

“We are a social enterprise and a big element of our enterprise is to promote gender equity,” said Bennett. “Everything from the product that we carry are from women or LGTBQ2-owned businesses. We also hire students that are potentially under-employed, new to work, back to work or self-identify in these minority groups as well.”

Also available for purchase are buttons featuring trail-blazing women in Nanaimo’s history: Elizabeth Quocksister, Victoria Chung, Mary Ellen Smith and Dorothy Blackmore. The button project is a component of the BIKES program and students will be speaking about the women on social media, according to Bennett.

“It enables us a way to really promote a really big element of the [program], which is gender equity,” said Bennett. “So we decided to highlight a little bit of the past in Nanaimo. The history and specifically females that have done phenomenal things and partnering with author Haley Healey to cross-promote that story of how many have done a lot for our city and town and we just don’t know about it.”

All proceeds go back to the society, said Bennett.

“The staff that are operating the business are youths that are learning business skills, employment training, how to run a small business, and the ultimate goal is that this is a self-sustaining operation,” Bennett said. “So every year we can run it … so we are more self-reliant and less reliant on government funding.”

Society for Equity, Inclusion and Advocacy formed in 2019 when Nanaimo Citizens Advocacy and The Nanaimo Women’s Centre amalgamated. It offers assistance, services and support for people facing systematic barriers who are at risk of being excluded by society.

RELATED: Warming centres for people experiencing homelessness open in Nanaimo

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