Vancouver Island’s largest food bank, the Mustard Seed, which provides over 45,000 meals per month has had the worst kind of setback this week.
On Monday, March 27th, at around 6:20 a.m. the street church and food bank’s Chief Financial Officer got a call from the alarm company alerting them to the fire.
When Mustard Seed staff got to the site, fire crews were already hard at work putting out the blaze.
The fire started at the exterior of the building near a door at the entrance of the chapel and the hospitality department. The fire’s heat blew out a window and smoke was able to get in the building that way.
“We have access to the building now, but we won’t actually be able to utilize the inside of the building for a little while,” said Colleen Sparks, Mustard Seed’s Director of Development.
“There is extensive smoke damage.”
A restoration company is already in the building assessing the damage and clearing the smoke out but extensive re-construction will be necessary for parts of the interior and exterior that was damaged.
“We’re likely going to have to throw away a good chunk of the food that was in the building, thousands of dollars worth of food,” Sparks told Victoria Buzz.
The Mustard Seed is closed all day on Monday, March 27th as they regroup, but they are planning on being open for their clientele in some capacity beginning on Tuesday.
Despite this, the building will be virtually unusable for the foreseeable future with staff members only being allowed indoors for one minute at a time in order to use the washroom.
“When it’s safe we’ll move back in but it’s going to be a long time though,” Sparks said.
For now, the Mustard Seed will be providing cold meals and cold drinks like sandwiches and juice from their parking lot. The food bank will be operating on a reduced capacity as well, handing out hampers to community members needing food rather than having a variety of options to choose from.
At this time due to the nature of the damage to the building, the Mustard Seed is not accepting clothing or food donations of any kind. There is just nowhere to put anything for the time being.
“What we have we aren’t even sure if we can keep it all, we just don’t have a place to put it and our staff just can’t go inside,” Sparks said.
“If people are looking for a way to help they can visit our website and financial donations is what’s helpful for us right now, not bringing extra food to our building because we just don’t have the capacity right now.”
People can donate to the Mustard Seed online here.
The fire’s origins are still under investigation and the Mustard Seed is working with their insurance to try and have the cost of the food and other products covered.