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Ucluelet food bank receives land for new facility as need hits unprecedented levels

Ucluelet’s council approves gifting parkland to Food Bank on the Edge Society
The Food Bank on the Edge Society celebrated at the site of the food bank’s future new home on Sunday after officially receiving land from the district in a unanimous vote on March 26. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The Food Bank on the Edge Society has officially received a portion of land that will become its new home by summer’s end.

Ucluelet’s municipal council unanimously passed a Parkland Disposal Bylaw on March 26, giving the society a 0.21 hectares chunk of land on the northwest corner of Tugwell Fields fronting Forbes Road for a new food bank facility.

The bylaw was subject to an alternative approval process as council needed elector approval to dispose of parkland and that process was a resounding success for the society with just two letters of opposition received, according to the district’s Manager of Corporate Services Joseph Rotenberg.

The process came to a close on March 13 and fell well short of the 10 per cent opposition threshold, which would have triggered a referendum vote.

He added the district would retain the option to take the land back if it is not used as a food bank for six consecutive months, is not kept in good repair or in 20 years.


The meeting’s agenda included a letter opposing the move signed by Tom and Judy Schmidt who wrote that they live on Forbes Road and questioned the need for moving the town’s food bank facility away from its current location at Seaplane Base.

“The park was left to the children of Ucluelet for today and future generations. This is like the chicken little story ‘the sky is falling’ instead of sky it’s the ‘tsunami is coming, the tsunami is coming,” it reads. “There is no life or death situation going on there. Hundreds of people on both sides of the inlet live closer to the water. They can get rid of the old building and put the new one in its place, it has been in the same place for the 14 years we have lived here. You want to give this valuable piece of park property to the food bank because they failed to maintain their building, how does that even make sense to you?”

The letter also suggested the Tugwell Field site would carry significant value on the open market and questioned the guarantees in place that would prevent the land from being sold to a private developer.

“They could sell it and keep the money and you have no guarantees they won’t. Good retirement nest egg for someone. This is a key piece of property for the expansion of Tugwell Field in the future, it will take a lot of taxpayer money to buy back something we already own,” it reads. “You should not be giving away city assets, once it’s gone it’s gone, what other groups will want a piece of Tugwell Field, good for one good for all. This park is full all summer with people having baseball and soccer tournaments, you can tell by the use of the park that people really like it, and it’s only going to get more popular in the future, if the park needs anything it’s a bigger parking lot not a food bank. That park was left to the children of Ucluelet, it is not your responsibility to try and find a loophole to give this land away. Your responsibility is to the taxpayers of Ucluelet and protecting what they already own.”

Coun. Shawn Anderson noted the letter and asked if it would in fact be possible for the society to sell the property.

Rotenberg responded that the property could be sold, but the district’s options to take it back would stay with the land.

“The property could be sold, but the option would be exercisable if the property was not used for food bank purposes for six consecutive months, after 20 years or if the building or lands are not kept in good stead,” he said.

He added the district would retain a statutory right of way to enter the lands and store moveable goods on it.

Anderson suggested enough options were in place to prevent a private sale for profit in the future and Rotenberg agreed.

“Our intention was to do as much as we could to ensure that the land was used for food bank purposes,” Rotenberg said.

Coun. Jennifer Hoar also noted the letter, suggesting the writers might not understand the specific location.

“They comment about it being a good spot for expansion of Tugwell Fields. If you know the piece of property, it’s got quite a slope on it and it is not somewhere that you could easily expand the field,” she said. “It really is not a highly useable piece of property. The use that the food bank is looking to put it towards is a fabulous way to solve a couple of problems that we have, let alone get them out of a building that is beyond its use.”

Martin elated

Council’s support was music to the ears of Food Bank on the Edge Society executive director Cris Martin, who was in attendance at the meeting.

“It made me very happy,” Martin told the Westerly News. “My birthday was two days prior and I said it was the best birthday present I could ever get…That was the last hurdle that we had to get through before we could start actually getting ready for our new building.”

She added she felt nervous throughout the process, but remained confident in the community’s support.

“The alternative approval process kind of had me nervous,” she said, adding she was relieved to see only two letters of opposition received during the process and one letter of opposition on council’s agenda that day.

“That was a relief and I was very pleased, but I was also confident that our community was going to support us because they always do,” she said. “This is our food bank. The community feels like it’s part of them and they know that we do a valuable community service…I was confident, but there was a little bit of trepidation waiting for that alternative approval process to come through.”

The food bank’s current building has long been known to be past its expiry date and Martin is looking forward to offering a safer, more welcoming environment.

“We needed a safe and clean environment to continue our services because, quite literally, our building is falling apart down at Seaplane Base,” she said. “I hope our floor stays intact until we get our new building, it’s that bad.”

The new roughly $300,000, 1,550 sq ft manufactured building has been built by Amco Homes and the society received $150,000 from the district’s Barkley Community Forest, which had about $3.2 million in the coffer at the time, to help cover its cost.

Next steps

Before it can nestle into its new home at Tugwell Fields, a foundation must be built and services connected, like water and sewer.

“That’s our next big challenge. The next step is that we have to prepare the land for our building, so that’s going to be another community fundraising to pay for the infrastructure…It is going to be a lot of work,” she said, adding Ucluelet’s former mayor Mayco Noel is helping to manage the project.

“He’s got the expertise, equipment and connections to get in there and start excavating and start seeing what we need to do to prepare for the foundation…It’s a huge job and it’s sort of like going into the unknown. We don’t really know yet what it’s going to entail, but we are hoping the community will continue to support us as we move forward.”

She added the society hopes to raise $150,000 to prepare the site and has already raised about $45,000 towards that.

“This money we’re raising right now isn’t for the building because we’ve got that pretty much covered through our initial donations and through the District of Ucluelet’s donation to us, so the thrust of the fundraising going from this point forward is so that we can get the services, infrastructure, foundation, all the stuff needed so we can actually have the building delivered,” she said.

She said she hopes to see the building ready for its new home around the end of summer.

Growing need

She added the food bank has seen a massive influx of clients already in 2024, with March seeing the highest number of visits than any other month in recent memory.

“March and February we’re the busiest number of visits in a long time. March was unprecedented. We had over 120 visits in March; usually we have around 80 visits a month,” she said. “In the past two years, since prices and inflation have gone crazy we have more fully employed families, parents who are employed and just can’t make ends meet coming to us. It’s definitely part of the community effort to help people afford to live here.”

Shifting stigma

She added the new building will help a shifting social stigma around food banks as the client list gets longer and more people need a bit of help.

“I think prior to maybe 10 years ago, the food bank was sort of this dark place that everybody kind of wanted to keep quiet about, but since then we’ve made great progress in building the optics of our food bank. That it’s not this place where the lowest people in the community come for handouts, it’s not like that,” she said.

“There’s always been that stigma around food insecurity and food banks and it does affect people and their ability to come to us. They feel self conscious…Like they’re supposed to make it, but they can’t make it. That kind of thing. That has changed.”

She noted both the provincial and federal governments have ramped up their support for food banks as rising costs increase the important service they’re providing to the communities they serve.

“I think food banks in general have enjoyed an uplifting of their characterization within their community…It’s not that forgotten corner of the community of people that can’t make it. It’s our neighbours and friends. It’s people we know who need a little extra help,” she said. “It is tough times. It’s tough on everybody. Prices are crazy and it’s tough…A food bank should be able to go out of business. That would mean food insecurity is not even a thing anymore, but on the other hand, aren’t we blessed that we are so supported that we can help to feed our community.”

She added the new building will provide a more welcoming venue to clients as well as the society’s roughly 15 volunteers.

“We’re going to be able to at least offer our clients and our volunteers a dignified place to work and visit. Right now it’s bad at our building. It’s really, really bad and it can’t feel good as a client to come down there,” she said. It will just uplift the whole meaning of who we are at the Food Bank on the Edge and make it a pleasant place to come to that isn’t in a tsunami inundation zone.”


She added various businesses, residents and organizations have been quick to assist as the need becomes more recognized throughout the community, noting the Ukee Hookers crochet group recently raised about $1,000 for the cause.

“We’re a remote community and it’s not easy to live here and work here. It’s just not easy and we all know that. Part of our services are to help ensure that people can live here. We make it possible for some folks to be able to survive here because we all love it here and it’s a beautiful place,” she said.

“We’re not a place for travelers who are just wanting to get some food while they’re traveling around. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for people who live and work here. It’s definitely on the rise so far in 2024…Definitely the cost of housing and food are part of it for sure, probably the majority. Prices aren’t going down. We all are experiencing it and it’s a stressor. It’s stressful for folks, especially with children. It’s tough.”

Anybody looking to learn more about the society or donate to its cause is encouraged to visit

“We’re not dipping into the money that we spend for food. I don’t want to give people the impression that it’s either one or the other, we manage our money really well, but we run on donations. That’s how we operate,” she said. “The fact that we can continue to support our clients is just testimony to the fact that we’re well supported in our community.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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