Parent volunteer Victoria Grando and son Oleg help deliver free bread to Victoria West Elementary School every week. (Submitted)

Beyond the Bread: Weekly donations from local businesses help Vic West families

COBS Bread owner said he was gobsmacked by the amount of people in need

Every Friday, Victoria West Elementary School gets a delivery of free bread from local bakeries.

Kerri Morash, who has volunteered with handing out the donation to Vic West families for the past six months, said the impact goes “beyond the bread.”

People picking up free loaves have told her they give some to elderly neighbours who are house-bound, or use the baked goods to pay babysitters for their children. It goes a long way for some families in the school zone, which Morash said is made up of a mix of backgrounds and speaks to the community’s resourcefulness.

READ MORE: Big Brothers Big sisters seek mentors for kids who need a guiding light

One parent picking up bread, Morash said, told her they were so glad to see “poor people not given the dregs, but getting good quality food.”

The principal of Victoria West Elementary School, Marla Margetts, said parents asked last year if they could arrange for the bread to be given out at the school.

“It’s a beautiful community here of families from all different walks of life and in different situations and yet have the same thread where they look after each other,” Margetts said. “It says a lot about the strong sense of community and love for one another here at Vic West.”

Every week, Tupperware containers full of baked goods are transported from COBS Bread and Portofino Bakery to Victoria West Elementary. Parents and caregivers of the school’s students get first dibs after school, usually at 2:30 p.m. on Fridays. Margetts said more than half of the families of their 275 students regularly take bread home each week. If there’s any left over by 4 p.m., it’s then taken to the community centre for the rest of the residents.

The elementary school also runs a breakfast and hot lunch program, feeding most of their students twice a day.

“For any human, but especially for a child, to be able to learn they need to be fed. To be hungry and to learn is very difficult, and for them to be fed and cared for in that way first so they are able to and willing to learn, that’s what we want to see happen,” she said.

Scott Bernard, the owner of the Oak Bay COBS Bread, said all of the company’s locations try to donate their leftover product at the end of every day — nothing is thrown out if they can help it. Bernard, who is also the baker, tries to make an extra $800-worth of bread loaves to give away daily to different organizations and charities who pick it up and hand it out to people in need. Since the store is open seven days a week and only closes two days a year, they give away bread that totals nearly $290,500 a year. With seven locations in Greater Victoria, that could add up to more than $2 million.

“There’s a certain purity to it. It also helps you be a good citizen. At the end of the day, my employees are there anyway. I’m there anyway. The ingredient cost is a drop in the bucket in terms of the retail value of the bread,” he said.

Bernard, who works and lives in the Royal Oak neighbourhood, said he was surprised by the amount of need in the area.

“Most of my stuff stays in a three- to five-kilometre radius. I’m shocked the need exists,” he said, adding he hopes his free bread makes someone’s day better.

While volunteers help bring the bread from bakery to school and then hand it out, Morash said they’re always looking for more people. If you’d like to help, Morash can be contacted by email at kerrianka@yahoo.com.

At COBS Bread, Bernard said they have an opening on an evening once a week after a volunteer could no longer drop off donations. Tonight, he has to throw out the bread he made to donate because there’s no one to pick it up. If you’d like to volunteer, he can be contacted at the Oak Bay location.

READ MORE: Vic West to host childcare expansion pilot project

keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca


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