Behind the scenes at the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen

Feeding a community means more than just providing a meal

The Food Rescue Processing Kitchen creates new opportunities to provide nutritious food options to those in need the Greater Victoria area. But it also gives the volunteers involved in this ground-breaking project new opportunities to participate, build friendships and develop a stronger connection to their community.

The 660-square-foot kitchen was built by a dedicated team of 245 volunteers. As it moves into its first months of operations, it continues to rely on volunteers to produce the stocks, soups and sauces it sends out to some 46 partner agencies in the region.

The Food Rescue Processing Kitchen is an extension of The Mustard Seed’s existing Food Distribution Warehouse. The Food Distribution Warehouse processes 4,000 pounds of fresh, nutritious food donated by select local grocery stores. This commercial grade kitchen was born of a need to stretch these 4,000 pounds of food a little bit further. It takes donated edible fruits and vegetables with small blemishes and imperfections, and turns them into ready-to-serve soups, sauces and stocks.

The Mustard Seed joined forces with local non-profit HeroWork, which built the kitchen from the ground up with the support of volunteers and funding from TELUS and other community partners.

“It’s hugely important to build those connections with your community [based on] the same goals of pitching in to create a healthy inclusive place to live,” says Jill Howard.

Howard is a Manager at TELUS Employee Solutions in Victoria. She is also an avid volunteer with many organizations around the city, and joined the HeroWork team as a volunteer coordinator during the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen build.

“We all want to be part of a really engaged and motivated community where we all feel connected,” she explains. “And you start to recognize people personally at different volunteer events. Not just from TELUS, but from all sorts of businesses and organizations.”

“We completely rely on our volunteers,” says Paul Latour. Latour is the Founder and Executive Director of HeroWork, a Victoria-area charity that brings together skilled trades and general volunteers to undertake transformational infrastructure renovations for local non-profit organizations. He refers to these as ‘radical renovations.’

“In any radical renovation you have two main components – the renovation component with skilled and unskilled labour, and then the event management component,” explains Latour. “The event management team turns the renovation into a community experience. They help with everything from preparation and volunteer orientations to acting as volunteer team liaisons and helping with the opening and closing ceremonies.”

Building something like the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen from the ground up takes funding, of course. But just as crucial is the volunteer support needed to successfully build complex structures in a very limited amount of time.

“TELUS gave us a grant of $20,000 for renovation supplies for the kitchen project, which helped a lot,” he recalls. “But there’s also this volunteer team from TELUS that shows up for different projects time and time again. Often, around 70 per cent of our volunteer liaison team is made up of TELUS employees.”

Howard is one of these volunteers that stands out.

“Jill Howard is always there, stepping up to participate and be a leader for many other team members. There are new people from TELUS who have stepped up into those roles as well,” Latour says.

Janiene Boice is the Director of Development at The Mustard Seed. She is excited about the potential of the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen to expand the amount of nutritious food her organization is able to send out through their community partners.

“TELUS has been sending teams quite often to help with everything from installing this enormous kitchen, to serving food, and helping with landscaping projects,” Boice says.

“Organizations like TELUS come alongside us to change the outlook for individuals that are at a vulnerable point in their lives, and struggling to access healthy food options,” remarks Boice. “Walking alongside us does more than just help us to feed people, it gives volunteers the chance to see the other side, to be a part of the solution, and then to see the change.”

Community is what you make of it. And for HeroWork, The Mustard Seed, and the team of volunteers that keep things in motion, community means finding ways to pitch in, help others, and savour a project’s success.

To find out more visit telus.com/community, mustardseed.ca and herowork.com.

This article is the second of a two-part series on the Food Rescue Projessing Kitchen project. Missed last week’s story, How many people can you feed with 4,000 pounds of food? Read it here!

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