Two Problems, One Solution: Loaves & Fishes Food Bank, Vancouver Island

DP World Community Kinship provides insight into nonprofits that are supporting our local communities. In this post, we profile the Loaves & Fishes Food Bank in British Columbia showing how corporations and individuals can support their work.

The Loaves & Fishes Food Bank was founded in 1996 in the basement of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Nanaimo. They have since expanded their operations to a 6,000 square foot central warehouse and intend to build a 25,000 square foot warehouse in the next 2 years. The non-denominational organization established their Food Recovery Program in 2012 and has grown rapidly since.

Food Insecurity Amid Food Waste

More than half the food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. If the food waste were its own country, it would have the third largest greenhouse gas emissions in the world. This doesn’t mean all Canadians have enough to eat; One in five are food insecure. However, one of these problems can be used to help solve the other. The food wasted is often perfectly edible, usable, and safe, it just needs to get to those who need it.

How Food Recovery Works

When Loaves & Fishes began its Food 4U Food Recovery Program, they accessed an untapped resource that dramatically increased the amount of food they could offer their clients. In 2011, the year before they began the food recovery program, Loaves & Fishes sourced and distributed about $800,000 worth of food. In 2016, they sourced and distributed $3 million worth of food. In 2021 that number became $6.5 million.

Loaves & Fishes provides participating supermarkets with sanitized color-coded bins. Instead of unused or unsold foods being put into the trash where they will unnecessarily add to landfill waste, they are put into the bins, which are collected by Loaves & Fishes drivers in 5 ton refrigerated trucks. Volunteers sort the food according to the Food Banks Canada standards, which ensures that high-quality safe food is provided. About 90% of the food recovered is usable. The remaining 10% is offered to local farmers for animals or compost. The food farmers don’t take is disposed of through industrial compost partners. At last resort, it is taken to the landfill. Most of the foods recovered are fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and dairy products.

Over the years, Loaves & Fishes has cultivated relationships with 21 grocery partners in Nanaimo and Ladysmith for regular food collection. Food recovery offers grocers an environmentally friendly way of disposing of food they cannot sell while benefiting their community. As the Food Banks BC National Food Sharing System Hub for Vancouver Island, Loaves & Fishes also sources food regionally and nationally.

How Food Distribution Works

Presently, Loaves & Fishes provides about 200,000 pounds of food each month throughout Vancouver Island. Food is given, free of charge, to more than 100 other nonprofits, schools, food banks and communities. Individuals can access food six days a week through Loaves & Fishes’ eleven depots in Nanaimo and Port Hardy. Clients are not questioned about their income or address. The depots are arranged like markets, allowing people to select their own food with dignity and independence.

How You Can Help

Loaves & Fishes Food Recovery Program is possible because of financial donations they put directly towards their operations. This allows for the most efficient use of their fiscal resources and provides an abundance of food for people across Vancouver Island. Non-perishable food donations also go a long way to increasing food available for people. These donations especially help in the summer when the amount of nonperishable food and financial donations drop. Loaves & Fishes sources and distributes over $5.00 worth of food for every $1.00 donation, an incredible return.

Individual and corporate donations are a significant help, as are third-party fundraising efforts. As part of DP World’s Employee Donation Campaign, Loaves & Fishes was selected as one of the local charities that would be supported. DP World and its employees donated $14,775, resulting in more than $73,875 worth of food being provided for the community. Loaves & Fishes is happy to support outside fundraising efforts. In addition, they have a Food for Summer Fundraiser and Food Drive, which helps stock up for the summer months.

Volunteers are also essential to Loaves & Fishes’ operations, including the food recovery work. 714 people volunteered in 2021 to prep, sort, and distribute food. Loaves & Fishes also offers corporate volunteer opportunities, a great way to give back while team building.

How To Get in Touch

Learn more about Loaves & Fishes on their website, Facebook page, Instagram feed, or Twitter feed.