By Ivan Watson
The Culinary Arts production kitchen at Camosun Interurban has been buzzing lately as college and community volunteers cook together to provide fresh and healthy meals for The Mustard Seed and Food Share Network members with the aim of reducing food waste, notes Culinary Arts chair Steve Walker-Duncan.
“Food is the great connector, that one thing that unites us all,” he says. “As a professional, both chef and as an educator, I feel strongly that we need to do everything we can to minimize the wastage of food at every possible opportunity.”
Each year, at The Mustard Seed’s Food Security Distribution Center nearly 85,000 pounds of perishable food goes into the waste streams. The Mustard Seed is working hard to change that and is currently partnering with HeroWork to build a commercial processing kitchen at their Viewfield Road facility in Esquimalt. When the new kitchen opens this summer, they expect to be able to process 40,000 pounds per year. In the meantime, Camosun has stepped in to help.
Every three weeks since February 2018, dozens of volunteers have gathered at Camosun to chop vegetables and prepare healthy meals. “We couldn’t do what we’re doing without this relationship,” says Derek Pace, The Mustard Seed Street Church interim executive director. “At the last event, we created 360 litres of soup, stock or sauce, all done by chefs that we then put in one litre containers and sent out into the community.”
Pace believes it’s a win-win for everyone involved. “Many people are benefitting from this – seniors, students, people on low incomes, many people who may not have the ability to cook,” he says. “They can heat up something healthy that is ready made. We’re also giving some to other Food Share Network member agencies.”
The Food Rescue Project was established through a collaboration of Victoria Foundation, Rotary, The Mustard Seed Street Church, Thrifty Foods and the Food Share Network with the support of local grocers. As plans took shape to add The Commercial Processing Kitchen, Walker-Duncan and Ryan Gibson from Sysco lent experience and helped design the optimal production setup.
At the Food Security Distribution Centre, The Mustard Seed team receives 2,000 kg of fresh food per day. “We bring it in, we clean it, we sort it and send it out to over 60 agencies. We still generate waste, about eight per cent still ends up going to waste or compost,” notes Pace. “My belief is that when we get this kitchen up and running we will be able to cut the waste in half and continue to build toward a zero waste warehouse.”
“Our work with The Mustard Seed has been growing from strength to strength,” says Walker-Duncan. “After the new kitchen is up and running, we’ll continue to work with them in terms of education and other opportunities to bring them back to Camosun. It’s an effective way of giving back to community and it’s something that makes you feel good.”
Mustard Seed’s new kitchen is expected to open in July 2018. The final Camosun production event is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 11. Volunteers from the college community are welcome to drop by and lend a hand.