Cheryl Bourgeois operates a bread-slicing machine at the Loaves and Fishes community food bank warehouse.

Cheryl Bourgeois operates a bread-slicing machine at the Loaves and Fishes community food bank warehouse.

Food bank sees increase in users in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – New warehouse provides ability to get fresh food out to drop-off locations.

From all outwards appearances the Loaves and Fishes warehouse looks like any other food bank

But inside the warehouse operates more like a cargo sorting centre than a traditional food bank. On any given day, vehicles carrying perishable food that has been picked up from various grocery stores around the city drop off the goods at the Fry Street warehouse.

Volunteers are then assigned to go through and examine the quality of the all the perishable foods, such as vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish. Food is then distributed to the various Loaves and Fishes food banks throughout the community and everything that can’t be distributed to food bank is reused in some fashion.

“Food banking is traditionally about building up a whole bunch of non-perishable food. We do that still, but the vast majority of food that we are handling is coming in and going right back out,” said Peter Sinclair, executive director for Loaves and Fishes. “Its a new approach because not only does it supply more food to people but it gives them healthy food.”Loaves and Fishes first took possession of the 557 square metre warehouse back in 2014 and has spent thousands of dollars in renovations, which includes installing a large refrigerated area to store produce products.Visits to all of the Loaves and Fishes food banks throughout Nanaimo have been on the rise according to Sinclair, who said there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of people using the food bank in May of this year versus last year.

“When we look May 2015 to May 2016 we are looking at an increase,” he said.

Sinclair said the increase is a combination of factors and not just one single reason alone.

One such potential factor is those who have returned to Nanaimo as a result of the downturn in the Alberta economy.

“We are definitely seeing people coming from Alberta here,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be able to say conclusively if that it is it for sure.”

Another reason for the increase is due to the number of Syrian refugees who were settled in the city earlier this year.

“We have seen in increase in part because of the Syrian refugees,” Sinclair said. “If I had to estimate I would say there are probably 25 families. They tend to be the larger families between four to six people.”Loaves and Fishes have translated their documents into Arabic in an effort better explain how their program works and make it easier for the refugee families according to Sinclair.Sinclair said he is expecting the a decline in visits for July and August, which he said can be sometimes be attributed to people finding short-term summer employment.“I am anticipating that we will see fewer people in July and August than we did in May and June, but I suspect it will be higher than last year,” he said.