Lawrence Martin, a driver for Sidney Lions Food Bank, is happy the new refrigerated van is tall enough for him to stand inside, which makes unloading easier. (Hugo Wong/News Staff)

New van brings fresh food for Sidney Lions Food Bank

At around 9:30 each Wednesday morning, the Sidney Lions Food Bank is busy on both sides of the counter.

As clients get their hampers, volunteers are busy sorting fresh produce in the back. Thanks to a new refrigerated van, clients can get more fresh produce than ever before.

Bev Elder of the Sidney Lions Food Bank said they partnered with Thrifty Foods a year ago to take the produce they would otherwise throw out, but because they did not have a refrigerated vehicle, they could not take full advantage of it. In the past, Thrifty Foods would send items to the Mustard Seed in downtown Victoria, and Sidney Lions Food Bank would do pickups from there. With the new vehicles, they can now make daily pickups of produce, dairy, bread and deli items from their two locations on the Saanich Peninsula.

Elder said the new van makes a big difference.

“First of all, the guys can stand upright instead of climbing into the back. It makes it so we can pick up these fresh items, so we can go even further. We can pick up more things from different farms. Frozen foods, meat, all of it we can take care of now.”

The morning delivery contains a wide assortment of fresh items, including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, containers of cut fruit, whole melons, bananas, potatoes, green onions, yogurt and deli items. They pick up from seven grocery stores every day, and they hope more grocery stores will get on board.

“Clients are so thankful for all the fresh produce. It’s not cheap to eat anything that’s organic, and we’re getting the lovely organic produce.”

Elder said there are extra preservatives and salt in many canned items, so fresh food is generally healthier. She pointed to a open box with several tubs of cottage cheese.

“That’s a seven dollar container, and they might just not have bought it because of how expensive it is.”

A grant from Food Banks BC of about $80,000 was used to buy the white Sprinter van, which was just shy of $70,000. It is so new they have not added their logo to it yet. The rest went to a new commercial refrigerator so they could store the produce once it comes in.

Tear’a Lyons, a single mom on disability, has lived in Sidney for 15 years after coming from South America. She volunteers at the food bank during busy times like Christmas, and she sometimes brings her kids to help. She used the food bank two days after she had her first child, because “I knew I had no food at home after coming out of the hospital.”

Lyons happened on it by accident and she said it reminds her of life in South America, where food is often eaten raw.

“Processed food for me is difficult to deal with, so when the fresh vegetables came, I was pretty happy about it,” said Lyons.

Lyons thought she could only get fresh produce once a month, but she was told she could come every week if she needed to.

“Being able to afford actual, fresh produce is amazing because I’m noticing my kids are a little bit more energetic, there’s stuff to eat in the house in the morning,” said Lyons. “There’s fruit. Real fruit, not canned.”

Lyons is thankful Thrifty Foods is willing to give away what they would otherwise throw out, because many grocery stores continue to throw away food that is still good to eat. She would like to see more grocery stores jump on board, because she notices that some friends who use food banks don’t have much food in the house, and if they do, it’s mostly packaged.

“Instead of throwing away your stuff, give it to someone who can use it. It means so much more,” said Lyons.

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