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The holidays are all about lending a helping hand to those who need it. VIU’s Culinary Arts Program is doing just that this season.

The program is donating extra food to the Nanaimo Salvation Army New Hope Centre on Nicol Street, roughly the equivalent of 200 meals a week, VIU said in a press release.

COVID-19 has forced VIU into a hybrid-learning delivery for the 2020 fall term and at least the 2021 spring term, meaning food that the Culinary Arts Program would normally sell at the cafeteria can’t be. However, students still make food for The Discovery Room, VIU’s fine-dining restaurant in Building 300, which is open at a limited capacity for the spring semester.

Philippe Lavoie, food program manager with Salvation Army Nanaimo, said in the release that need for meals is up drastically.

“By March of this year the community need was up by 30 percent over 2019. That need has more than doubled since the onset of COVID-19,” Lavoie said.

Salvation Army Nanaimo is currently giving out about 10,000 meals per month, so the approximately 800 meals per month provided by the Culinary Arts Program since the beginning of the fall semester has been very welcome, Lavoie said.

“It really is a beautiful thing to see,” he says. “The culinary students are not only learning about food preparation, but also about helping vulnerable people in their community. The food is picked up at 2 pm and by 3:30 pm someone is eating it, and when you are living on the street and it’s cold and you’re hungry and someone provides you with a high-quality meal that looks and tastes good it tells those people we care about them, and we do,” Lavoie said.

Food waste is something that should obviously be avoided, especially since so many are in need, yet Canada wastes about 35.5 billion kilograms of food each year. That’s roughly 350,000 adult blue whales.

“Food waste is huge in the world right now,” Jason Lloyd, chair of the Culinary Arts Program said. “When I worked in Vancouver, we identified opportunities to donate to the local shelters and the churches and they were very happy to receive that food to distribute to the people in need.”

Lloyd said seeing the sheer amount of food thrown out as he was training and working at five-star hotels convinced him to find a different path as a manager.

The Salvation Army New Hope Centre serves a daily community lunch and dinner and provides bread and other bakery products when available. They will also be serving their usual free holiday meals to try and give people in need some comfort during an already difficult holidays.

If you or someone you know needs support, the New Hope Centre’s phone number is (250) 714-1142.

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