The smell of mould and dampness are apparent as Cris Martin gives the Westerly News a tour of the West Coast’s Food Bank on the Edge facility, located next to the Seaplane Base Recreation Hall.
The longtime volunteer and executive director of the Food Bank on the Edge Society points out the cracks in the ceiling and the run down floor.
She grimaces at the fact that clients must bear the dank atmosphere as they collect food hampers or other essential items for their home.
“The building is rotten,” said Martin. “In the last 12 months, it’s become really obvious that the integrity of our building is down to practically nothing. It’s gonna fall apart soon. It’s in major levels of disrepair.”
Martin brought her plea for a new facility to Ucluelet’s mayor and council during Jan. 22’s regular meeting.
“Our little building had humble beginnings and we are now in a situation where it is not a healthy environment,” Martin said.
In 1989, the current building that had been used at Ucluelet’s kindergarten classroom was moved to the Seaplane Base where it was used as a daycare until it was donated to the Food Bank in 2006, notes Martin.
She went on to say that the Food Bank used the portable classroom as a storage facility until opening it up as a hamper distribution centre on Sept. 18, 2007.
In 2015, the nonprofit added a cover for the deck and had the roof redone the following year.
Mayor Noël addressed the issue.
“The building is old, there is no doubt. We need to come up with something. I think it’s really important through our staff to find out if there’s a spot in the next 90 to 120 days to get you guys a temporary location,” said Noël.
He suggested the Food Bank could one day be part of the new medical centre that mayor and council are considering.
“We know that you can’t do another winter in that building,” said Ucluelet’s mayor.
CAO Mark Boysen said district staff is in the midst of forming a budget for the next four years, and determining what projects are priorities for the community.
“The Food Bank is something that is near and dear to a lot of peoples’ hearts. My job is to make sure we follow-up with process on this,” said Boysen.
Last fall, the Food Bank on the Edge Society received a grant from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust to conduct a feasibility study and explore alternative locations for the facility.
“We contracted a research assistant to search for grant and funding opportunities. We are actively searching for community money to enable us to fund a new building and move. The need is urgent. Food insecurity is still alive and well here on the West Coast,” said Martin, adding that the Food Bank is seeking to relocate to high ground.
Its current location next to the Seaplane Base is nine metres above sea level, according to Martin.
“We’ve got to get out of the tsunami inundation zone,” she said.
RELATED: Food Bank on the Edge seeks safer location (Feb. 2018)
Tugwell Fields, Martin suggests, would provide adequate space for a new warehouse and potentially a multi-use building for emergency services.
“Our dream would be to have a building with space, 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. We have lots of electrical needs and we would need a food safe type kitchen space. In case of emergency, we would be producing meals for the community,” said Martin.
She said the Food Bank feeds over 100 local families per month. West Coasters spend more of their household income on groceries too, according to the 2018 CBT Vital Signs report. A comparison of food items showed that food prices are 12 per cent more expensive on the West Coast than in Port Alberni. Anyone interested in helping the food bank is encouraged to contact Cris Martin 250-726-6909.
READ MORE: Cost of living going up while wages are going down in Tofino and Ucluelet (Jan. 2019)
READ MORE: New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-base proteins (Jan. 2019)