Volunteers sorting food at The Mustard Seed – Food Security Distribution Centre

Food rescue movement takes root in Victoria

It’s estimated that the total amount of food wasted in Canada every year is worth at least $31 billion. This represents a shocking amount of water and resources squandered, hundreds of thousands of tons of food ending up in landfills where it releases harmful greenhouse gases, and far too many people going hungry.

In cooperation with a diverse network of not-for-profit organizations, The Mustard Seed Street Church and Food Bank is helping to address the problem. It operates a local food hub in Victoria West to rescue food that is still edible and that would otherwise go into the waste stream. That food then gets redistributed to people in need.

“We have six trucks going to all the local grocery stores and rescuing 4,000 lbs of produce, dairy and milk each week,” says Janiene Boice, director of development at The Mustard Seed. “We clean it and prepare it and redistribute it within a 24-hour period to 62 agencies impacting 35,000 individuals per month.”

Volunteers sorting food at The Mustard Seed – Food Security Distribution Centre

“Vancity have always been very supportive. They wrapped their arms around us from the beginning when we started doing food rescue work.”

“Vancity have always been very supportive,” Janiene adds. “They wrapped their arms around us from the beginning when we started doing food rescue work.”

In 2019, The Mustard Seed was able to purchase the building they had been renting for the past few years. This was done with fellow occupants Spinnakers Brew Pub (a local and organic food champion and Vancity member). Vancity gave The Mustard Seed an enviroFund grant of $200,000 and provided financing for them and Spinnakers totalling $9,770,000 to become joint owners of the building. The Victoria Foundation and the Province of B.C. were also instrumental in making the purchase happen.

“We want to support not-for-profit partners who are aligned with our purpose to build equity and become more sustainable over time,” says Moira Teevan, the Vancity community investment portfolio manager who works with The Mustard Seed. “There’s just a whole bunch of things that make this initiative a good fit for us.”

Among them are The Mustard Seed’s work in its on-site commissary kitchen making soups, sauces and stocks from rescued food. These are sold to generate revenue or served at its food bank across town. Among many related initiatives, the organization also runs a national food donation program connecting unwanted food with empty stomachs.

“Now that we’ve purchased the building, we have a huge extra space that we can rent out for local events,” says Janiene. “The mortgage with Vancity has given us stability and it’s saved us about $1,500 per month compared to when we were renting. Our budget is just over $600,000 per year and we had been struggling. But this purchase will be a big help in turning all the things we do into a more stable business model.”

Street view of The Mustard Seed – Food Security Distribution Centre

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