Robbie May, former president of Living Edge Community Board, was among more than a dozen volunteers, who distributed fresh produce and vegetables to some 80-plus people in the Quadra-Hillside neighbourhood of Victoria. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Families find support from food that would have gone to waste

Living Edge recently expanded its program to Saanich, distributing fresh produce and vegetables

The queue begins on Kings Road and ends some way down Dowler Place in the Quadra-Hillside neighbourhood of Victoria.

It consists out of 80-plus people, who are waiting to pick up fruits and vegetables free of charge courtesy of Living Edge. A Church of Our Lord program, it has distributed fresh produce and vegetables in the Quadra Village neighbourhood since 2011.

The line ends by a set of stairs that lead into a small courtyard. Volunteers wearing transparent plastic gloves sort vegetables, while other arrange perishable items, including loafs of bread stuffed into large plastic bags. Some of the volunteers wear regular street clothes, other looks like roadies, wearing T-shirts with the Living Edge logo, as they heave boxes holding every kind of produce into place. The food itself comes from local grocery stores, such as Thrifty’s, the Foodshare Network, the Mustard Seed Street Church, Salvation Army and other agencies.

Living Edge founder, Pastor Neil Van Heerden, addresses the volunteers. He is wearing a grey baseball cap and the edge of a tattoo sneaks past the left sleeve of his white T-shirt. He pulls out his cellphone and quotes a passage of 1 Timothy 4, a letter from Paul the Apostle.

Van Heerden tells the volunteers that the passage reminds them of their choice to foresake more lucrative pursuits for helping other people. “Even if you are feeling low, even if you have are feeling down, we have chosen to do something that is really helping other people,” he said. “For me, I know it adds value to my life.”

After the group prays for the recovery of a volunteer’s relative, the first people in line descend down the stairs to pick up items from various stations arranged in the shape of an upside-down U. Following the last station, they walk up a ramp that leads back up to Dowler Place.

Some move on quickly. “No English,” says an older man wearing a white robe. “Syrian.” Others lingers. Laura (not her real name) is sitting with two female friends along a nearby wall. A fourth, Susy (not her real name), stands nearby. “Today is a light day,” says Laura. Susy agrees. “It used to be 50 to 60 people,” she says. “Now, it is 130, 140 some days.”

Both have limited budgets and depend on Living Edge to make ends meet. Laura, for example, comes almost every week during the summer and about twice a month during the winter. She loves the fresh produce and vegetable. Living Edge, also does not limit visits, unlike other foodbanks, she says. Susy is also a regular and whatever she cannot use herself, she shares with her brother, her sister and her three children, and friends, who cannot make it out themselves to the Quadra Village Community Centre. Living Edge also distributes food Tuesday mornings to residents of North Park Manor.

The Quadra Village neighbourhood ranks among the poorer neighbourhoods of the Greater Victoria region. But its residents are not the only ones struggling. As the cost of living driven by higher housing costs has risen across the region, food insecurity has spread. So Living Edge has expanded its efforts to other neighbourhood by partnering with other churches.

Earlier this year, Living Edge partnered with Emmanuel Baptist Church to serve residents in the University of Victoria area. A more recent partnership with Gateway Baptist Church has also brought the program to Saanich’s Broadmead area. Later this year, Living Edge will be present in Langford. “It’s really exciting, because they are so short of resources there,” he says. Food insecurity, in other words, is not just a problem of core Victoria or any specific neighbourhood.

Van Heerden says the program helps everybody, regardless of their respective religious background or circumstances.

While many of the people relying on Living Edge receive disability or social assistance, most of them are working, be it full-time, or part-time, says Kelcy Snyckers, a spokesperson for the program.”Trying to make ends meet is almost impossible, because of the cost of living,” she says.

Van Heerden says the program also helps to reclaim food. “That is often something that we often don’t think of,” he says.

The program has also helped to foster a sense of community and solidarity, something obvious as people were outside the Quadra Village Community Centre. Many greeted each other as friends. “People come early just to socialize,” says Laura. Others around her nod their heads in agreement. Some of the crowds at other food banks are rougher, she says.

But Susy also knows that food-banks invite a certain stigma, a stigma, she rejects. “We’re not disgusting drug users,” she says. “Most of us just happen to be poor.”

 

 

Living Edge volunteers gather for a group food Thursday morning before handing out fresh produce and vegetables to some 80-plus people in the Quadra-Hillside neighbourhood of Victoria. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Just Posted

Vancouver Island homeowners buy more earthquake insurance than the rest of B.C.

Insurance Bureau of Canada says that’s because the perception of risk is greater on the Island

District of Oak Bay issues notice to cease tent city

The notice is effective immediately

‘Leaning tower’ rental building proposed for downtown Victoria

The building would offer 93 residential units targeted at young professionals

Anxiety amongst voters on amalgamation referendum

Non-binding referendum asks Victoria and Saanich residents to endorse citizens’ assembly

Lisa Helps campaigners target downtown Victoria bikes for election ads

Flyers were hung off of parked bikes in the downtown area

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Most Read