In 1995, St. John's started an emergency food service in response to the overwhelming need resulting from massive cuts in the B.C. welfare rates. Although we hoped this kind of support would be short-term, the need has fluctuated but never gone away. We now simply call ourselves the Food Bank at St. John the Divine (Victoria, BC). Although we would welcome the opportunity to close our doors, we do not see this happening soon.
In the past 20 plus years, we have become an exceptional community of volunteers, financial supporters, suppliers, and our very special clients. This community includes people from all faiths and backgrounds.
Our primary focus is to respect the dignity of our clients. Each client is presented with a list of available food items from which they are allowed to make choices. A “personal shopper” will find and bag the chosen items on their behalf. In most food banks, clients are presented with a hamper of food chosen for them.
Who are these people, our clients? They are our neighbours. They could be former classmates or colleagues or even family members. With only the slightest twist of fate – an accident, a debilitating illness, or an unexpected financial disaster – they could even be one of us! Most of us know them as “the working poor.” Most have some kind of home; however, the rent for that home consumes most of their available income. Sometimes, people do not tend to think of food bank clients as individuals, let alone being people just like us. At St. John’s, we have come to see them simply as people who need help.
Approximately 70 dedicated volunteers keep our food bank running on a weekly basis. They are people from St. John’s, local churches as well as Congregation Emanu-El. Some of our volunteers have no formal church affiliation. They provide a service to break down bulk items (such as sugar and rice) into smaller containers, stock shelves, pick up food from a variety of sources, and distribute food directly to our clients when the food bank is open.
We are blessed by our diverse group of primary suppliers. We receive donated bread from Wildfire Bakery and Cobs Bread. For Good Measure provides, at wholesale cost, some of our dried seeds and grains and all of our peanut butter. The Canadian Wholesale Club continues to be our supplier for most staple items. We take advantage of sales at grocery outlets. We receive a steady stream of wonderful food donations from the Salvation Army, which includes frozen meats and treats. They share this food with many of the local food banks and we are grateful to be included. Finally, we are members of the Food Rescue Project, organized by the Food Share Network. As a result, in early 2017, we started to see rescued fruit and vegetables coming our way from Thrifty Foods.
Almost sixty percent of our operational funding comes from the parishioners of St. John’s through donations. We are incredibly proud of the support we have continued to receive from within our church community. The remaining support has come from fundraising efforts and from outside the community of St. John’s.
Our food bank is open to clients two mornings a week in the church crypt. For more information on our clients, volunteers, suppliers and funding sources, contact the food bank coordinator, Peggy Wilmot, through the church office at 250-383-7169.