In 2014, Past District Governor Lorna Curtis spearheaded an idea to divert food from being dumped into the local landfill. The food in question consisted of fresh food items in grocery stores reaching their “Best Before” date or imperfect in size or appearance. The idea was to collect this food, take it to one location, clean, sort and re-distribute to those who are food insecure in the community.
In 2015, the Rotary Clubs of Greater Victoria conducted a car raffle to begin the long journey to establish a facility to repurpose and distribute the diverted items. Greater Victoria Rotary clubs raised $114,000.00, which was matched by the Victoria Foundation. The committee engaged the Mustard Seed Street Church to be the operational partner for the Food Security Distribution Centre. A warehouse was rented at a cost of $ 18,000 per month. The money from the car raffle allowed the renovation of the large commercial walk-in cooler and freezer. Until the establishment of this program, individual food banks did not receive fresh food from grocery stores.
The focus of the Food Share Network, according to their website, “is an innovative umbrella that enhances food security in the Capital Regional through collaboration and cooperation among food banks, community centers, Indigenous organizations, schools, donors and other community organizations.”
Currently, the facility receives between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of food every day from 8 different grocery retailers plus local farmers (originally, there was one grocery retailer, Thrifty Foods). The Food Security Distribution Centre has processed over 2.1 million pounds of items that were destined for the landfill. The program now has 70 different agencies serving over 50,000 individuals who need access to fresh foods. Through generous donations to the program, the warehouse at 808 Viewfield Road was purchased, and now the mortgage expense is $ 9000.00 per month instead of the $ 18,000.00 per month rent.
In 2020, the Rotary Club of Sidney by the Sea partnered with Sidney Elementary School and School District 63 to distribute food to families in need at the elementary school. Each Tuesday one Rotarian drives to Food Security Distribution Centre in Victoria to load up their vehicle with boxes of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery items, and sometimes frozen meat or household items. At 1:30 PM, the food is delivered to the school, where two tables are erected and the food is displayed. Two members of the Rotary Club, along with friends and family members, help to distribute the items to the parents waiting to pick up their children at the end of the school day. The only criteria set out by School District 63 was that every person participating in the distribution of the food receive a criminal record check because of the close proximity to the children, and the food should only be given to adults.
Each year, the club receives an annual report outlining its participation in the program. In 2023, The Rotary Club of Sidney by The Sea received 7,615 pounds of products that were given to the families associated with the school. According to Food Banks Canada, the value of the food distributed was $ 26,804.00.
There is a happy and sad aspect to this program. We are glad to be able to provide food to the families at Sidney Elementary School to assist them in providing nutrition in their daily lives. The sad aspect is that in today’s climate, we have families who are food insecure and require the services of food banks and programs such as the Tuesday food distribution at Sidney Elementary School to put enough food on their table to properly nourish them.