The Neighbourhood Market at Saanich Baptist Church is one of 10 that provide fresh produce to people in need across Greater Victoria. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

The Neighbourhood Market at Saanich Baptist Church is one of 10 that provide fresh produce to people in need across Greater Victoria. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Daily free food markets offer fresh produce to Greater Victorians in need

Ten Neighbourhood Markets operate across the region

Dozens of people lined up in the crisp evening air outside Saanich Baptist Church on Thursday, not to attend mass, but to grocery shop.

Carrying reusable bags and pulling shopping trolleys, mothers with children, elderly people, newly immigrated families, individuals undergoing chemotherapy treatment and every manner of person in between waited their turn. Steps away, on the church patio lit by a few overhead lights and outdoor heaters, a bustling group of volunteers worked to fill each visitor’s needs.

“And would you like some potatoes? Red or white?”

“We’ve got some kale. Want some fresh kale?”

(Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

The Neighbourhood Market isn’t like other food banks. Here, people don’t have to register, community is plentiful, there’s no designated amount that they receive and fresh, healthy food is the priority. This week, volunteers are the most excited about the brie cheese they have to offer – 80 pounds of it.

“Dairy is what people want,” volunteer Gail Bones said. “It’s too expensive for a lot of people to afford.”

Also available are yogurt, butter, milk, local coffee, baked goods and every manner of fruit and vegetable. Prior to the pandemic, people actually got to pick out all their own goods themselves, just like they would at a grocery store.

“I think that we’re making people feel valued,” said Rick Boomer, missions ministry director and organizer of the market. This is important – de-stigmatizing accepting charity.

“It takes a lot of courage to line up at a place where you get free food,” volunteer Rob Reinhart said. The volunteers work hard to make people feel comfortable, learning their names, their food preferences and their stories. They want it to be a place of community.

Friendships have been formed at the market, Boomer said proudly. He pointed out two women who bonded over a similar backstory of severe car accidents that left them unable to work. “Without the market, they wouldn’t eat,” he said. “They literally don’t have any food money.”

The Saanich market is one of 10 run across Greater Victoria by Living Edge, a not-for-profit project of the Anglican Network of Canada. But, Boomer has gone out of his way to make his own partnerships with producers and supply even more food to his market.

At the start of the pandemic, he reached out to food wholesaler, Sysco, which without its regular demand from restaurants had a sudden excess of food at its warehouse. Now, Boomer gets a pickup truck of donated goods from Sysco every Thursday morning.

Rick Boomer, missions ministry director at Saanich Baptist Church. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

“It is unbelievable,” he said. A few weeks ago, he arrived at the warehouse and found a pallet full of 450 pounds of bacon waiting for him. Because the market primarily receives goods past their best-before dates, meat is rare and exciting.

In the summer, Boomer and volunteers spent time at Gatton House Farm where New Zealand born farmer Jason Austin devotes his land to growing for charity.

“We started with blank fields, we roto-tilled it all, we planted it all, we harvested it all and then we handed it all out,” Boomer said. Often times, they were handing out produce so fresh it still had that morning’s dirt on it.

For Boomer it is these partnerships, this gathering of community around a common cause, that make the markets so special. He pointed out that their one market is run by volunteers from five different churches and that the purpose isn’t to spread any one of their religious messages.

“Yes we are the church, but when you come and see what’s going on we’re not asking anything. All we’re doing is giving,” he said.

More information on where and when each market is can be found at livingedge.ngo .

charityFoodfood securityGroceriesSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Google/Screencap)
BC Coroners Service investigating death at a North Saanich marina

Death said to have happened late Monday night

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

In January, six flights with cases of COVID-19 onboard have landed at the Victoria International Airport so far. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two new COVID-19 exposures reported on flights to Victoria

A Jan. 10 flight from Toronto and Jan. 11 flight from Calgary were affected

December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

Most Read