The grand opening of the Mustard Seed’s Food Rescue Processing Kitchen.

How many people can you feed with 4,000 pounds of food?

Nutrition, dignity, and the power of food security

Fighting hunger in Greater Victoria has always been a priority for The Mustard Seed. But the newly introduced Food Rescue Processing Kitchen takes feeding those in need one step further.

The Food Rescue Processing Kitchen is the latest addition to The Mustard Seed Food Security Distribution Centre. The Centre was launched last year, and focuses on connecting people at vulnerable points in their lives to fresh, nutritious and delicious groceries.

The tireless team of volunteers at the Food Security Distribution Centre collect and process 4,000 pounds of donated fresh food six days a week. These fresh dairy, meat and produce items are donated by local groceries stores including select Whole Foods, Thrifty Foods and Country Market locations. If these groceries weren’t donated, they’d be tossed away into the landfill instead.

“[These groceries] come through our warehouse… and then go out to 35,000 people each month through our programs and those of our partner agencies,” says Janiene Boice.

Boice is Director of Development at The Mustard Seed. Her organization is a member of the Food Share Network, a 46-member-strong collective of non-profit agencies that distribute food to a variety of food-insecure communities in the area.

“The food is usually in great condition, but once in awhile we’re unable to send it out again as is,” she continues. “We thought why not take this fresh, nutritious food we can’t send out because of a bruise or a scaly spot and turn it into soups, sauces and stocks. That way we can send it out too.”

The Mustard Seed joined forces with Victoria’s HeroWork to turn this idea into a reality. HeroWork reached out to the TELUS Community Foundation, securing funds for $20,000 to build a commercial processing kitchen for this purpose in The Mustard Seed’s Esquimalt warehouse.

And so the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen was born.

“The ready-to-eat soups, sauces and stocks made at the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen will add tons of nutritional value to the meals and hampers provided to children, families, seniors, homeless populations and other vulnerable groups in our community,” enthuses Jill Howard.

Howard is a Manager at TELUS Employer Solutions and has called Victoria home for the past 11 years. She’s also an active volunteer in her community, and assisted on-site during the construction of the Food Rescue Processing Kitchen.

HeroWork is known for its volunteer-powered construction projects, and built the commercial processing kitchen from the ground up.

“HeroWork is a charity that does renovations for other charities for a fraction of the time and the cost,” says Paul Latour, by way of introducing the organization he founded.

“We do comprehensive renovations for charities so that they can make a bigger impact. We examine their infrastructure, and then work with these organizations to make sure that the infrastructure change is really something that’s going to empower them in the future,” Latour explains.

HeroWork only has four full-time employees, including Latour, and counts on their network of volunteers to get these projects done. Latour says that he can rely on TELUS employees to be part of this network.

“Our Volunteer Liaison team are often made of up to 70 per cent TELUS employees,” he explains, adding that project teams include both ticketed trade professionals as well as more general capacity volunteers.

“We have people like Jill Howard from TELUS who time and time again step up to participate in the lead up to and during the event, and also to act as a leader to other teams,” Latour says. “I’ve also seen others from her company step up into those roles as well. We really count on these supporters.”

“Corporate and community involvement is paramount to making a difference in our communities,” adds Boice. “When organizations like TELUS come alongside us to change the outlook for individuals who are struggling financially, they’re doing more than just feeding people. It gives them a chance to see the other side, to be a part of a solution, and then to see the tangible change.”

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

Stay tuned tuned for part 2 of this series next week.

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