Food rescue store expanding

·4 min read

The Brandon Food Rescue Grocery Store will be moving to a new expanded location in May.

Work is underway to renovate the new, larger space for the Food Rescue Grocery Store in Brandon’s downtown core, said Brandon Food Council chair Olivia Boyce. Twelve volunteers have been working to transform and renovate the facility for the May grand opening.

"We knew long-term the vision was to have our own space and to be able to function at a larger capacity," Boyce said. "We’re looking forward to growing out into a new space."

The Food Rescue Grocery Store has been looking for a long-term home since it initially opened at the Blue Door Project at the end of December and was able to secure a new home in early April.

Through the initiative, staff have seen firsthand the need for the service on both the food recovery and food security sides.

While at the Blue Door Project, staff have been able to accept food from retail and warehouse distributors bringing pallets of items that could not be sold in grocery stores to Brandon for the community. Deliveries varied in size, she said, and they were limited in the amount they could accept based on storage capacity.

The new space will significantly improve its storage capabilities and allow the store to accept more food offerings.

Once opened, the newly renovated storefront will include tables and chairs to create a "French coffee shop vibe," Boyce said. Staff are also looking to bring in a coffee maker but are waiting for final approval from public health officials.

The till will be along the wall and complemented by an artificial plant wall.

A wood wall will feature consignment pieces with creations made at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation Creation Nation Makerspace.

Available food will be spread across a wall with four shelves. Storage space for food is located at the back of the store.

The final store will be able to increase the capacity to disperse food in the community in an "immeasurable amount," Boyce said.

The initial store at the Blue Door Project was about 80 square feet while the new location is 800 square feet.

The Food Rescue Grocery Store first opened in December with the aim to curb food waste and improve food security for those in need, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. The shop sells food at an affordable price point.

The hours will remain the same for now, but Boyce wants to hear from the community to see what hours of operation they would prefer to ensure accessibility.

"I’m going to do market research to see when people are out and about in downtown on a given day," Boyce said. "I’m open to changing days, changing hours, whatever is going to serve the community best."

She cautioned the store will likely never be opened full-time because of the type of food they receive. The Food Rescue Grocery Store does not buy the food, she said, so it will never be a fully stocked grocery store.

"We’ll get the food that we get when we get it, and when we’re sold out, we’re sold out," Boyce said. "Since we’ve started, it’s really been about bringing people together and meeting needs and solving problems."

Success at the food store will continue to be measured by the pounds of food rescued. It is a measurable metric, she said, and shows the store is making a dent in a percentage of Canada’s food waste. The National Zero Waste Council estimates food waste in the country is around 2.2 tonnes of edible food each year, costing Canadians in excess of $17 billion.

Staff will also look at the number of food pallets they can bring to Brandon and disperse.

The current retail location saves a couple hundred pounds of food each month, Boyce said, and she expects this number to grow once the new location is open.

"I think it’s important that it’s not that restricted or limited to any socioeconomic demographics. Everyone is being hit right now with inflation. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s affecting everyone’s food budgets."

The shop has been collaborative and built connections with BNRC and Blue Door Project as well to ensure it finds success.

Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation has been a major partner in storing food for the shop and aid in building shelves for the new space. Boyce said this has allowed the store to accept food it would otherwise have been unable to take.

The store would not have been possible without the teamwork between volunteers who have pushed to make it happen, Boyce said.

She is proud of the partnerships the store has built, including a new one with Simplot Canada, which will be on hand for the grand opening of the Food Rescue Grocery Store’s new location to help commemorate the occasion.

"This has been an initiative that people have just really rallied behind," Boyce said.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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