Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank wants to upsize and expand to provide better service to those in need.
The Nanaimo non-profit’s warehouse is currently situated on Fry Street, but space is at a premium, according to Peter Sinclair, Loaves and Fishes executive director, and preliminary work has begun to find a bigger building.
“It’s simply lack of room,” Sinclair told the News Bulletin. “We’re accessing so much food that we’re running out of room to actually sort it properly and distribute it. We are able to sort the food that we have right now, but we anticipate getting more and we’re also wanting to take the food that we have now and sort it better. As an example, fruits and vegetables. One category is fruits and the other is vegetables and we’d like to be able to sort that into individual types of each, so it’s easier for people to find.”
There isn’t room for expansion at the current site, said Sinclair, and ultimately, Loaves and Fishes hopes to own its site. He said the food bank needs a warehouse space that’s 15,000 square feet at minimum, with 30,000-plus ideal.
“We’re looking to purchase probably an acre- and-a-half to two acres of land and then build a specific facility designed for our usage … we’ve certainly been looking at existing facilities out there and how they could be modified to suit our needs,” Sinclair said. “But as we begin this process, we’re looking at what is the ideal situation for us and from that ideal situation, what can we fundraise for? What can we get the financial resources to make it happen?”
Sinclair said Loaves and Fishes also seeks the appropriate equipment to complement the space, and mentioned a conveyor belt and automated bin-washing system as examples.
“One of the big things that we’re working on is how do we automate and streamline our sorting processes, so when we have volunteers showing up to work, do we give them equipment that allows them to be as productive as they can be?” asked Sinclair. “Do we provide them with equipment that limits their chance of injury, limits the need for them to be lifting and bending and all that sort of stuff? What we’re looking at in the new facility is really a revamp of our operations to take us to the next level.”
A delegation from the non-profit appeared before the Regional District of Nanaimo solid waste management select committee and Sinclair said Loaves and Fishes will appear before the City of Nanaimo in the future, as well as engage with the provincial government.
In 2019, Loaves and Fishes sourced and distributed $4.6 million worth of good food, an increase of $500,000 from the year previous, according to Sinclair.
Ben Geselbracht, RDN solid waste committee chairman, said Loaves and Fishes provides an “amazing service” that assists with the regional district’s goal of 90 per cent waste diversion, but it is too early to say if the RDN will provide any assistance.
“I think we’re very interested in the work that they’re doing and it’s still very early days to sort of see exactly what’s needed and what they’re requesting,” said Geselbracht. “So we’re just entering into it with an open mind.”
Similar to Geselbracht, Leonard Krog, Nanaimo mayor and committee member, said Loaves and Fishes provides a valuable service, but it is too early to talk about assistance.
“It’s early days in terms of a request and obviously they’re looking for funding,” said Krog. “One would hope that the provincial and federal governments should be stepping up to the plate.”