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

Just Posted

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Centre following drug deal

Sooke Fire Rescue firefighters evacuate an injured hiker on Mount Manuel Quimper in March 2021. Sooke will soon be moving to a new fire dispatch service. (Facebook – Sooke Fire Rescue)
Proposed fire dispatch deal could save Sooke thousands of dollars

New dispatch needed after Langford drops out of CRD service

Alex Fiset and Cooper Oakes, both Grade 4, running to the finish, raising money for the ALS Society of B.C. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
John Muir students rally for ALS support

‘Hey ALS. Nobody likes you!’ the students yelled

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

Al Kowalko drives Sooke School District’s first electric bus that began operation in May. The board decided on June 15 that all future buses will be electric, asking the province for more funding to support the program. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Sooke school board agrees to make all future buses electric

Board to ask province to increase funding to cover the extra up front cost

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Family homeless after fire rips through Chilliwack house

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Syringes prepared with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Vaccine first doses now available for walk-ins on Vancouver Island

People aged 18+ can walk in for their first COVID-19 vaccine

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Most Read