Twenty-four fully grown blue whales weigh eight million pounds.
That's how much food the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society distributes through emergency food services, programs, and support to community organizations every year.
In 1981, Canada entered a recession. In 1982, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society was founded in response to a sudden influx of people - approximately 200 people per week - in need of emergency food supplies.
Fast forward to today's date and here we are, reflecting as the year draws to an end thirty years later, with the GVFBS now serving 27,000 people per week - a population equivalent to the City of Langley. Needless to say, a tipping point has been reached and one thing is certain; it is time for change.
While the comparison in numbers over three decades as a standalone may seem alarming, it is certainly not all doom and gloom. During those thirty years, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society has made leaps and bounds in helping to address hunger in our neighbourhoods; providing emergency food and related assistance to individuals and families that truly need help. At the same time, the GVFBS also recognizes that emergency food as a standalone is not a long-term solution.
In the last fifteen years, the food bank has also made other significant progress by providing food supports elsewhere in the community. Fresh Choice Kitchens(formerly the Vancouver Community Kitchen Project) is focused on promoting and creating educational opportunities for people to cook and eat healthy and nutritious meals together in community kitchens. The Downtown Eastside Community Kitchens(DECK) project provides residents of single-room occupancy hotels in the Downtown Eastside with opportunities to use community kitchens as a capacity-building and educational space while also building social connections. Finally, the Community Angel Food Runners program recovers prepared and perishable food from local restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, and schools for delivery through meal service agencies, saving over 725,000 pounds of food from being wasted every year - food that in turn provides 1.25 million nutritious meals for people instead.
By the way, 725,000 pounds is roughly the same weight as 183 minivans.
As we reflect on the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society's thirty year history, the impact and influence that food banks have in our daily lives, we recognize that twenty-four blue whales' weight worth of emergency food provisions every year are not enough. Emergency food, while essential, doesn't address the steadily increasing rate of demand for food support or the root causes of hunger in our community, nor does it adequately support long-term food security for individuals and families in need.
Through our work, we've grown to understand that we need to do more to help bring solutions forward to end poverty, enhance education and capacity-building, and support physical and mental well-being for our neighbours. It's with these goals in mind that we are moving forward with new resolve, in collaboration with our partners in health, housing, and education to explore strategies for integrated, long-term solutions.
We're excited about 2013 and what the future holds for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society; we're ready to take a bold new step and play a leading role in pioneering a new vision with the health and nutrition of our community and our society in mind.
We look forward to the year ahead as we embrace change, joining forces with our friends and our neighbours in making a difference together. We thank you for your continued support through this transition and wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday.