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City councillors, Burnaby Neighbourhood House, celebrate DoorDash donation

Plus: BNH leadership will go to council in March to request the city’s help in finding a new location

Burnaby councillors Alison Gu, who was acting mayor, Daniel Tetrault, and Richard Lee visited North Burnaby Neighbourhood House (BNH), to kick off a new partnership with DoorDash on Wednesday, Feb. 7. The food delivery service has donated $15,000 to BNH, of which $8,000 is in community credits; the DoorDash program provides gift cards through non-profits to people facing food insecurity. 

From left: Food hub coordinator Janey Cameron, DoorDash head of policy Brian Kaufmann, Coun. Richard Lee, BNH program director Kim Barwich, BNH CEO Antonia Beck, Coun. Daniel Tetrault, Coun. Alison Gu. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

BNH leadership welcomed the new partnership; however, during the event, they explained that while all donations are welcome, cash donations are much more helpful in providing community members with their needs. 

“We work with purchasers to increase our own buying power. For example, we work with a produce organization where we are able to purchase at 40 cents a pound no matter what it is. If it’s $10 a pound mangoes, we pay 40 cents a pound,” said Janey Cameron, coordinator for the food hubs at BNH. “Donation dollars are actually more valuable to us because not only can we use our increased buying power, but we can also direct the funds to specifically target the areas of need that we see, such as people who suffer from lactose intolerance, gluten-free, special dietary concerns such as halal meats, baby formula, diapers, wipes, seniors who must drink nutritional supplements.” 

In recent months, BNH has seen more people accessing their food hub and services. “Unfortunately, every month, we’re still seeing several dozen more people coming to us for food support,” Cameron said.  

As affordability becomes a more significant challenge in Burnaby, the non-profit expects an even greater rise in demand, making it a struggle to cope. “There are about 7,000 people a month that we serve. We provide about 140,000 meals per month to those families,” Cameron said.  

According to a press release by BNH regarding the event, “This new program will help address a critical shortage, which left BNH without essential food resources at the end of their latest outreach efforts to the community.” 

Food hampers at Burnaby Neighbourhood House, North Burnaby. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Another issue not addressed directly during the event is related to BNH’s request for help from the city to relocate to a larger building in North Burnaby. Last November, BNH CEO Antonia Beck, and board chair Ted Wiens presented their request during a council meeting, citing increased demand and the food hub crowding the premises in North Burnaby, which are now almost entirely dedicated to the food hub’s storage and fridges, as well as packing areas. 

Not only is the current location insufficient in size, it is also becoming increasingly unaffordable. Since BNH is renting at market rates, it is subject to the same inflationary pressures the rest of the community faces.

“The hope is that BNH North will end up in some kind of development with the city, and possibly a developer…We need to get out of this space, the landlord raised the rent by 40%, so we’ve signed a short-term lease so by next December we need to find another place along Hastings. We need to be in this neighbourhood, where there’s a lot of people that need us and come to this food hub,” Beck told the Beacon. 

According to Beck, while the city councillors have supported BNH’s demands, the city has competing priorities. Beck intends to return to council next month to request a formal motion for staff to start acting on BNH’s request. 

“The challenge is finding a place that is in this neighbourhood because this is where they have established community relationships, and this is where a lot of folks are in a food desert, so that contributes to some of their challenges around accessing affordable food,” Gu said.  

Gu added that since Beck and Wiens’ presentation last November, “We’re trying to work with BNH to look at other options. Their rent just went up 40% this year. Because of the private ownership model, it’s very difficult to have the security of knowing that they’re going to be here long-term in the community that they serve and be able to afford the rent that they pay. The more they pay in rent, the less flexibility they have to offer food and other necessities that families and individuals need.” 

BNH food hub volunteers with DoorDash representatives. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“The challenge is the limited land opportunities and the timelines. So looking at any possibilities to be able to develop something is going to take a number of years, and there are very few opportunities that are currently available,” Gu added. 

Both BNH and Gu agree that a lack of affordability, high rent, and inflation rates are the primary factors in Burnaby’s worsening state of food insecurity, pushing many people in the community to resort to food banks.

“The biggest challenge for food security is that the root problem is obviously income inequality, which is largely driven by issues that are very much outside the control of municipalities. Municipalities can take a diverse approach to address all aspects of food insecurity. It’s not just being unable to pay for food; it’s also being able to buy nutritious, fresh, and culturally appropriate food that you actually want to eat.” 

Gu added that the city is currently addressing the root causes of inequality, such as rent and housing prices, by continuing to build more affordable housing and ensuring zoning allows for more fresh food distribution facilities, such as greengrocers.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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