The Ripple Effect: Who Gets Impacted?

Article written by Christy Sebelius, HeroWork Volunteer

As a HeroWork volunteer I wanted to investigate the impact of their latest project, the $450,000 Food Rescue Kitchen. To do so I interviewed leaders from a couple of very different non-profits that will benefit from our project: the University of Victoria’s Student Society (UVSS) and Silver Threads.

Students in Need

I have worked at the UVic campus since 2004 and had no idea that the University of Victoria’s Student Society (UVSS) runs both a food bank and free store. This Food Bank has been in operation since 2003. Since then the demand for its services has grown dramatically. Between 2010 and 2015 the program’s usage has increased from 1,281 to 10,877 students. That’s an increase of 850% in just 5 years! 

This unsettled me. I don’t think most understand the extent of food insecurity in our community. It continues to grow.

Students from all walks of life use the food bank, with 20-25% of those being families who live on campus and are doing their graduate work.  The food bank’s food comes from various sources: their dumpster diving program, UVic’s Mystic Market, the Good Food Box Project, UVic fees (dairy and basics), and the Food Security Distribution Centre, which is, as Alexandra Ages, Coordinator at the UVSS food bank, told me, “is by far the biggest supplier.”

Since the Food Security Distribution Centre’s creation in early 2017, it’s been an integral part of providing good, healthy food for students.  Everything from spices to pasta is available, with a twice weekly delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables, goodies for families, and hygiene items.   

Alexandra said that the addition of pre-packaged soups and stews through the Food Rescue Kitchen and the Mustard Seed will be an amazing addition to what’s now available. “Students are always looking for things that are easily accessible and do not require much preparation.” She also emphasized just how grateful the students are when they pick up food for themselves and their families. 

Hungry Seniors

Silver Threads supports seniors through programs and outreach services in community centres across Victoria.  Their services were not news to me, but what was news to me is that they also provide extensive food services. 

According to Tracy Ryan, Executive Director at Silver Threads, 85% of seniors in Victoria live independently, and the ability for many to access good nutritious food is an issue on several levels. Not only are there mobility and financial challenges, but the social stigma associated with food banks is greatest amongst this demographic. As a result, many are living on a “tea and toast” diet. 

Silver Threads provides both take-away meals and daily lunch service (at a cost), as well as fresh produce and staples provided and delivered by the Mustard Seed through the Food Security Distribution Centre. It also delivers groceries weekly to other sites Silver Threads supports.  One specific example Tracy cited is a CRD Housing unit, which accommodates 38 seniors. In addition to fresh produce that is already delivered, Silver Threads will now offer pre-packaged soups and stocks, which will help with meal preparation.

Cross-Collaboration is Key

The UVic Student Society and Silver Threads are just two of the over 50 community groups that are affected by the Distribution Centre and will be further lifted up by the Food Rescue Kitchen. To grasp the full impact, multiply these two stories 25 times, reaching nearly every demographic: schools, aboriginal communities, homeless shelters, youth centres, and more.

To tackle such a pervasive challenge requires many leaders and groups to work collaboratively. Tracy, the ED of Silver Threads, asked a key question: “How do we best use the resources that we already have to mitigate the problem.”

In the past organizations often worked separately, each reaching out to different venders and groups for help with food delivery. But with the Food Security Distribution Centre and the new Food Rescue Kitchen, many of these efforts are consolidated and streamlined, allowing each organization to focus on what they do best. Through the process of writing this article, I have learned that both passion and collaboration are key. The Food Rescue Kitchen built by HeroWork is another piece to a big and complex puzzle that strengthens both the Mustard Seed and the Food Share Network organizations, enabling them to serve people who are food-insecure across our region.

But on a personal level, the simple act of witnessing the gratitude and joy on the faces of people who use these services —from the young to the elderly and from all walks of life—is reward enough to get involved in this amazing, life-giving community. 

As Tracy Ryan told me, “Food is the glue that keeps people together.” And as Paul Latour, HeroWork founder and ED, often says, “Charity spaces and infrastructure really do matter.”

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