Volunteers from both Living Edge and from Gateway Baptist Church ready to portion fresh foods to guests at the weekly Tuesday night food market in Broadmead. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Volunteers from both Living Edge and from Gateway Baptist Church ready to portion fresh foods to guests at the weekly Tuesday night food market in Broadmead. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Saanich’s little known food bank serves 100 people per week

Broadmead church’s food bank so successful, it wants to add day care next

It’s one of the lesser known food banks in Saanich, and the region, probably because it’s still so new.

And only one year in, the Tuesday night neighbourhood market at Gateway Baptist Church in Broadmead has been so successful, it’s spawning another initiative, the idea of affordable community day care. In particular, the day care would benefit those who’d benefit from it most.

“If food security is an issue, then day care is too,” said pastor Aaron Dyck. “It’s a critical need in that family’s life, we’re hearing it over and over… day care can be a critical piece of moving into a place where food security is less of an issue.

“With day care, that parent can now work, that parent can now go to school, and that parent can now have time to generate resources.”

As Dyck pointed out, you hear about a day care closing somewhere in B.C. every week. And at the same time, the provincial government is working to increase day care spots. Day care at Gateway is still a couple of years away but the need is so dire, the group is already receiving calls, though there’s no wait list yet.

“The needs are going up,” he said.

Gateway is in the finishing stages of a $750,000 renovation that includes washrooms and classrooms as well as increased accessibility. It was a combination of having a multi-use facility ready on the main floor, and knowing there was a need for more food, Dyck said.

“Credit goes to Living Edge, a fairly new party working to address food security, and basically everyone is teaming up,” he said.

St. Vincent de Paul, Mustard Seed, Living Edge and others are all working together, and are learning the need is greater than what anyone knew, Dyck said.

“There is a need for second tier food support,” he said. “People who don’t get enough from normal streams, it just isn’t enough. With the Mustard Seed you get a big box, it’s quite amazing, milk, meat, a lot of stuff, but what about the interim.”

At the same time, there’s been a heightened awareness around food waste in Canada with consumers wasting an estimate of 40 per cent of purchased groceries.

Gateway’s neighbourhood market – which offers fresh produce and bread, and other staples – exists thanks to the Mustard Seed’s new Food Rescue program and its 13,500 square-foot Food Security Distribution Centre on the border of Esquimalt and Vic West.

“Full credit to Thrifty’s and others who’ve stepped up to say, ‘We can do better than that,’ and others who came on board,” Dyck said. “We’re starting to release more of this food back into where it belongs which is people’s dinner tables, and its perfectly good stuff.”

Dyck credits the Living Edge, whose team drives the food to Gateway where volunteers from both organizations sort it and portion it out.

Gillian Smart (inset photo) is a retired senior who moved to Broadmead four years ago. She’s been coming to the Tuesday market as a guest since it started. The food helps make ends meet for Smart, but it goes beyond that she said. Since March, she’s also volunteered.

“I’m not a member of the church, I didn’t realize there was an opportunity to volunteer, I assumed there wasn’t any need until one day I asked, and they said, ‘yes please,’” Smart said.

She’s one of about 20 volunteers and puts in about two hours of work to help get the food sorted ahead of the market on Tuesday afternoons, she said.

It creates a harmonious community spirit that Smart finds uplifting.

From those community conversations, Dyck heard the desperation from families about the day care situation in the city.

“We’re starting to dream about what it would look like to run a day care here, whose purpose was the same as [the neighbourhood market], to meet a critical need that people have and be part of filling that gap of essential services,” Dyck said. “It’s a game changer.”

The challenge, he admits, will be making it affordable to those who need it.

“We’ll pay the most competitive wage we can. We want to make stories happen, make miracles happen, for those who can dream, ‘if I only had day care, I could accomplish this, or that.’

“To us, miracles are the space between what you can do and what you need.”