Last fall, Marcus Lobb started to get the ball rolling on the formation of a centralized food hub to prevent abundant food from going to waste and make it available to those who need it. Lobb was hired as the coordinator for the project by the Alberni Valley Transition Town Society and is encouraged by the support received by the community so far.
In June, he took his research to Nanaimo where he visited the successful program established through Loaves and Fishes. The organization coordinates the pick-up of quality food, including produce, bread and milk, from grocery stores that no longer meet the standards to sell on the shelves. Instead of being thrown away, it is brought to a large warehouse to be given to clients and distributed to other similar charities and food banks. When founder, Peter Sinclair, came to Port Alberni shortly after Lobb’s visit for a talk, he gave the audience tips for launching a food hub locally.
“Most of the major organizations came and it was a really captivating talk,” Lobb said. “He stressed that there is an abundance of food out there and there is no need for the agencies to compete with each other, and if they do, it won’t work.”
That inspired representatives from the Bread of Life, Salvation Army, Kuu-us Crisis Line Society and other individuals to take a tour of the site in Nanaimo in August. The tour included the warehouse where food is stored and sorted and has designated areas for clients to “shop” and for agencies to collect their items.
Lobb said the approach allows people to maintain their independence and takes away the stigma of using the service.
“Some grocery stores just give the organizations what they think they might want, but most say they want to take everything and will sort it themselves,” Lobb said. “Sometimes a head of lettuce might not look good on the surface, but if you remove one leaf, it’s okay and ends up with a longer shelf life for someone.”
Lobb said the tour was an eye-opener.
“Someone told me that at the end of the day that her head was swimming with ideas and thoughts,” Lobb said. “Seeing the sheer volume of food that was available was a real eye-opener for people.”
Others enthusiastic about the initiative include the Port Alberni Shelter, and John Douglas attended on its behalf. The shelter drives regularly to Nanaimo to pick up donations of food to distribute in Port Alberni and a food hub would save time and money.
“I think it sounds like a great concept,” Douglas said.
“It would be great for the community and instead of having individual groups striving for the same goal, we can do it together.”
Lobb’s next steps include finding volunteers to help coordinate a food hub and find a suitable location large enough for both dry and refrigerated storage.