Every year, the Mustard Seed throws 85,000 lbs. of perishable food into the compost, having no use for it without the proper facilities to prepare meals.
Herowork, the local renovation company who works with charities and other non-profits is helping fix that problem, with plans to build a commercial kitchen and dignity market in a two-phase project beginning in June at Mustard Seed’s Viewfield Road facility.
“This is a huge build for a big and great organization,” says Paul Latour, executive director and founder of Herowork.
The 4,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Esquimalt, where food rescued from grocery stores is distributed to 42,000 people per month through 60 community partners, will be renovated. The addition of commercial kitchen equipment, racking and improved counter surfaces will create a 450 sq. ft. processing space. Herowork will also provide a rebuild for the bathrooms and offices.
“We contacted professional chefs, engineers and architects to come up with a beautiful design,” Latour explains.
New sewers and drains, commercial grade non-slip flooring and Plexiglas wall panelling are in the works, and a new six-burner stove, refrigeration equipment and convection oven are also coming. The changes will enable volunteers in the food rescue community kitchen to transform nearly half of the previous food waste into nutritious soups, stocks, and sauces.
Through this work, the kitchen will be able to process 40,000 lbs. of food per year, says Latour. The kitchen will also be used by other organizations as a base from which to run programs building on cooking skills and food literacy.
In October, phase two of the renovation will see the creation of The Dignity Market at the Queens Avenue location.
Some 5,000 people are served each month by the Mustard Seed’s food hamper program, and the market – designed after a grocery store – will enable them to shop for items they choose, reducing food waste, as well as shame and stigma.
“Both projects are different,” Latour says. “There’s been some learning curves. But, this is the most value we’ve achieved [in a project]. We estimate these renovations at about $900,000.”
Herowork began excavations last weekend and volunteers are still welcome. Those skilled in trades like plumbing and carpentry are needed, as well as general help. The food distribution centre at Mustard Seed will remain in operation during the month-long renovation, slated to finish June 17.