Nanaimo council supports food bank expansion

NANAIMO – City council agreed to give Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank $275,000 over two years to expand into a new building.

Loaves and Fishes is thankful and overjoyed after clinching more than $200,000 in taxpayer money for an expanded community food bank.

In an open meeting Monday, city politicians voted 6-2 to give Loaves and Fishes $275,000 over the next two years to purchase a new warehouse 10 times the charity’s current size.

According to the non-profit, its 500-square foot storeroom is no longer large enough to accommodate food donations and volunteers. It’s leasing a larger warehouse on Fry Street and hopes to raise $550,000 to purchase the building.

Peter Sinclair, executive director of Loaves and Fishes, said the contribution helps secure financing and is critical.

“We are absolutely overjoyed that the city has chosen to invest with us to improve the food infrastructure in our city,” he said. “[It] all but assures we are going to get this warehouse we are in now.”

City council considered providing the food bank with $4,000 in monthly operational support, or $275,000 over two years. Coun. Diane Brennan, who made the motion to give the lump funding over two years, called it a shorter option.

“If we choose putting it in as a line item in the budget, then we have to deal with this every year,” she said. “This would make the purchase complete in two years and the community would have an asset that really works when we are looking at tackling hunger.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe said it was an eye-opener during his campaign to learn about the level of poverty in Nanaimo and he believes council has a social responsibility to respond to the need where it can.

“One way that’s very tangible is to give support to the food bank,” he said. “I will support the motion and certainly in the back of my mind, I will be, when we come to our budget deliberations, looking to recoup that money from somewhere else.”

Councillors Jerry Hong and Bill Bestwick opposed the funding. Coun. Wendy Pratt was absent.