Nanaimo council considers help for food bank warehouse

NANAIMO – City council agreed to have staff members look into financing for a new warehouse for Loaves and Fishes food bank.

Nanaimo city officials will consider funding an expansion for Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, which has seen food stockpiles outgrow its storage capacity.

City council agreed to look at financing the food bank and its expansion into a warehouse more than 10 times its current size.

According to Loaves and Fishes, its 500-square foot storeroom has become jam packed with food stockpiles, no longer large enough to accommodate both donations and the volunteers who sort and distribute them. Food is moved outside under awnings and tarps during the day to allow people to work. Alex Counsell, food bank operations manager, says it’s not an ideal situation.

The organization is now looking to raise $550,000 to buy a larger warehouse on Fry Street, which would not only give it more room to store and handle food, but expand its offerings. It’s asking the City of Nanaimo for $4,000 a month in ongoing operational funding, or $275,000 over two years – half the cost of the new building.

“The community has been so generous to us in terms of the food that we have coming through our facility that we simply don’t have the room to sort, store and distribute it all. Right now we are working out of a 500-square-foot warehouse which every night is completely full,” said executive director Peter Sinclair, adding more volunteer and paid staff time goes into handling the food as it’s moved in and out of the facility. “It’s not good, the situation we are in, and we need a solution and we’ve clearly got one before us.”

The local food bank, which served more than 7,000 people in the past year, is in negotiation for what would be a “proper warehouse,” according to Sinclair, who says it’ll eventually allow Loaves and Fishes to open 35 hours a week up from 16, and set up food stations to allow clients to choose the food they want – something there’s not room for currently. People get pre-packaged bags.

The food bank would keep its current storage room in addition to the new space, which is expected to allow it to accept more donations and attract more partners for its food recovery program. Loaves and Fishes wants to secure its funding by the end of December and has raised $12,000 in community donations so far.

Mayor John Ruttan told the News Bulletin he sees the food bank as a necessary service and has no doubt some kind of grant or funding from the city will take place.

“They are looking for financial assistance in trying to secure a larger premise and that’s what the city is looking at,” he said.