Cash-strapped Mustard Seed cuts staff hours

Victoria organization attempts to meet costs while facing reduction in donations

All 25 full- and part-time staff at the Mustard Seed took a 25-per-cent cut to their hours this week, as the non-profit organization deals with its pressing financial challenges.

“We needed to take some drastic, immediate steps,” said executive director, Rev. Chris Riddell.

Donations are down by $400,000 over the past two years, he said.

In anticipation of another low-revenue year, the organization had already cut up to 10 per cent of its $2-million budget, mostly cutting back on the food it buys.

The reductions, however, haven’t been enough.

“The only thing left (to cut) is our staffing time,” Riddell said. The loss of wages will put staff in a difficult situation, he acknowledged. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The good news is the resolve and heart they’ve shown in this hard time, he said.

“Some of our staff has said, ‘I’m going to be here for eight hours anyway because I care about the ministry.’”

Every month, 5,000 people come to the Mustard Seed for a food hamper and another 2,000 come to access one of the organization’s other services, such as counselling, advocacy and health services. The Mustard Seed also operates a healing farm in the Cowichan Valley, where up to 12 men live at a time.

Riddell hopes the cuts to staff hours will be temporary.

“We’re hoping (that with) our appeal to Victoria, they respond in a positive way,” he said.

This weekend the Mustard Seed is participating in the Great Canadian Food Fight – a friendly competition between food banks in several cities to bring in the most donations. Details about how and where to donate are at mustardseed.ca.

rholmen@vicnews.com