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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read