Pastor Neil van Heerden recalls how, one rainy afternoon in November, an elderly gentleman approached him on the street and introduced himself as a client of Langford’s newest food bank, the Living Edge. The man embraced van Heerden and told him how much the Living Edge fresh food program meant to him.
There were tears in his eyes.
On another occasion van Heerden listened to another gentleman who is a refugee to Canada who had arrived from the Middle East.
He told van Heerden how he’d been waiting for eight months for the paperwork that would allow him to work in this country and he said that the Living Edge program was what made the difference between hunger and eating for his family.
“It’s these stories that inspire me and all the others involved in Living Edge to keep going and try to do as much as we can to make people’s lives just a little easier. No one should be going hungry in this country, and if it takes groups like ours to make sure that’s the reality, then so be it,” said van Heerden.
The Living Edge program started in 2011 in the Quadra Village with the aim of providing fresh produce to the working poor, single parents, the elderly, students and others who need help to find a way to feed themselves.
The program expanded to include distribution points at UVic, Cedar Hill Cross Road, and in Royal Oak.
The group’s most recent venture has brought them to Langford where, since the beginning of November, they have been hosting a weekly market at the Open Gate Church (679 Goldstream Ave.) every Friday between noon and 1:30 p.m.
“There is a fabulous food bank in Langford already, and we are in no way competing with them,” explained van Heerden.
“What we focus on is providing fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to the canned and dry goods that people can generally get from food banks. We do it through the kind support of organizations like Quality Foods, Thrifty Foods, and Cold Star Solutions who provide us with a lot of food for distribution. We also get some fresh produce from Mustard Seed in Esquimalt where they have a big refrigeration unit and access to fresh food.”
Pastor Andrew Hewlett of the Open Gate Church expressed his gratitude to Living Edge and said how happy his congregation was to help the program.
“The great thing about Living Edge is that there is no registration required and we don’t just pack up hampers for our clients. They come in and shop our market, taking what they need in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity. It’s a matter of respect,” Hewlett said.
“We’re still learning the ropes here. But the main thing we’ve learned is that, as volunteers, we receive far more than we could ever give.”
He added that although there has been very little advertising for the new food distribution program, the numbers of clients coming to the Living Edge market has consistently grown.
“The first week we had 10 people come in and the next week we had 20. Last week we had 45 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see twice that number in the coming weeks,” said Hewlett. “It just keeps growing.”
Living Edge programs across the region serve about 5,000 clients a month for a total of 60,000 a year. The program recently got a huge boost when a number of local businesses teamed up to replace Living Edge’s delivery van. Thrifty Foods in Colwood, Galaxy Motors, Maxxum Insurance and Speedpro signs replaced an existing van that was limping along on its last legs.
“None of the work we do would be possible without the support of the community. Our program is just the vehicle for delivering the generosity and kindness of others without whose help we couldn’t do any of what we do,” said van Heerden.