Likely more than 50,000 people in the Capital Region do not have an adequate food supply – it’s something Treska Watson hears every day.
People tell her stories about how a change in circumstances, like an injury preventing them from being able to work, quickly meant they couldn’t afford food for their families. But they would also tell her about how being able to access food from the hunger-fighting non-profit Mustard Seed, where Watson is the director of food security, allowed them to get back on track.
It highlights the importance of food security and places like the Victoria Community Food Hub. At 808 Viewfield Rd. in Esquimalt, the hub takes in and helps extend the life of healthy food from regional stores and restaurants, while also giving smaller-scale farms a place to process and clean their product.
The site currently rescues up to 12,000 pounds of otherwise wasted food per day, helping to serve around 70 non-profit agencies that span the region and every sector.
“It is such an incredible community asset and working not only to feed vulnerable people but also to be an anchor for building a regional food economy,” Linda Geggie, the food hub’s executive director, said from the site’s warehouse.
The province on Thursday announced a $350,000 grant for a new training kitchen at the site, with the target of completion in around three months. The kitchen will help advance local skills training programs and allow farmers to scale up and get their products to market, but Watson said it has limitless potential.
“It’s a whole production kitchen, probably one that hasn’t been seen in Victoria,” she said.
The skills training programs the kitchen will advance will focus particularly on people from limited-income, racialized, Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds, the province said.
“What we’re talking about today is really the coming together of communities,” Agriculture and Food Minister Lana Popham said at the food hub. “It’s about changing our food system to reflect what’s needed and in a lot of ways, it’s also a tool in our fight against climate change when we look at food waste.”
An estimated 15,000 people use local food banks, meaning tens of thousands lack a secure food supply. Watson said another advantage of their site is cutting out the stigma surrounding hunger in Greater Victoria.
“That’s why this program was created, it allows us to serve in areas and get food to other groups of people who may not be receiving help or may not feel that they’re worth of needing to go to a food bank.”
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