‘Say yes to food’: Nanaimo, B.C. food bank overwhelmed by donations gets land for new warehouse – BC


A critical community food bank on Vancouver Island is getting a new, specialized food distribution warehouse with help from the city it calls home.

Nanaimo Loaves and Fishes has received so many donations in recent months, it’s struggling to store all the food that would have otherwise gone to the landfill.

To help ease the capacity crunch, the City of Nanaimo has purchased land that will allow the food bank to build a food recovery warehouse.

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“Our motto is basically don’t say no, say yes to food, whatever it is, and kind of figure it out afterwards,” said Loaves and Fishes operations manager Alex Counsell.

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“The stores that we work with know we will pick it up no matter what it is. That philosophy has kind of got us to where we are now where we need a much bigger facility.”

Loaves and Fishes’ food recovery program picks up between 2,000 and 3,000 kg of food per day from grocery stores on Vancouver Island.

Most or all of that food would have been thrown out otherwise, said Counsell.

More than 80 non-profits access the program, including school food groups, church meal programs and local service organizations, he added.

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Loaves and Fishes plans to obtain a 30-year lease from the City of Nanaimo on the newly-acquired land that will allow it to build a 25,000-square foot facility — about three times larger than its existing one.

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“I cannot begin to imagine the desperation that would be felt by thousands of people if Loaves and Fishes weren’t operating as the incredible success story it has become,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog.

“It will be a long time before we see the new warehouse — the distribution centre — but it’s absolutely necessary.”

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Greg Welgan, manager of the Real Canadian Superstore in Nanaimo, said he’s pleased to hear about the deal. Loaves and Fishes’ food recovery program is “immensely important,” he said.

“We’re partnered with the food bank and the amount of work they do is life-changing for a lot of people in our community,” he told Global News.

“If the food recovery program wasn’t part of our community it would probably go to a landfill. We’re able to divert a large percentage of this product to our local food bank.”

Loaves and Fishes was founded in 1996 and launched its Food 4U Food Recovery Program in 2012. It has 11 satellite depots across the island.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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