Visit this free pantry if you live in Victoria and need help putting food on the table

·2 min read

Demand at B.C. food banks has soared during the pandemic and to help meet the needs of those living in the capital city a local dietitian is doing what she can to make sure everyone has a can of something in the cupboard this Christmas.

With grant funding provided by the City of Victoria, Caitlin Boudreau has set up a small pantry in front of the Fairfield Gonzales Community Centre where donated non-perishable food items are now available to anyone free of charge.

The small wooden structure was built by Boudreau's neighbour, Reese Tibbitt, and resembles one of the many free little libraries that dot B.C. neighbourhoods.

If people can leave a can, they are encouraged to do so and if people can't afford a can they can take one anytime.

Caitlin Boudreau
Caitlin Boudreau

"I want to reduce the stigma of having to grab a few food items," said Boudreau during an interview on CBC's On The Island.

There are currently about 557,000 British Columbians living below the poverty line and in some communities, one in four children do not have enough to eat.

While the pandemic did not cause the poverty problem that has plagued the province for decades, more than 50 per cent of provincial food banks have reported an increase in demand since the spring.

Long-term plans

A plan for the pantry was in the works before anyone had heard of COVID-19, Boudreau says, but it took some time for funding to fall into place and the physical structure was erected just in time for the holidays.

"I think we needed it before and now I feel that we need it even more," she said, adding the donation response has been "overwhelmingly positive" and sometimes there is actually an overflow of food.

For now, she is keeping an eye on the pantry to make sure it is stocked, but is hoping that eventually it becomes a neighbourhood initiative.

"My goal is really that the community is all involved, checking on it and refilling it," she said.

In the long term, Boudreau is also interested in having a freezer or fridge where people can leave and pick up pre-made meals and fresh food.