Regina Meals Financial institution second location supported by government committee

The Regina Food Bank is one step closer to establishing a second location in the downtown neighbourhood after receiving support from city hall.

The City of Regina’s executive committee voted in favour of providing funding and leasing land to the organization’s “downtown community food hub.”

The food hub would be a first-of-its-kind in Canada, according to Regina Food Bank CEO John Bailey, and operate much like a market or grocery store to allow users to pick and choose their food.

“This will put the control back in their hands in a way that supports choice, that supports dignity and supports connection to food that’s different than what we’re currently offering,” Bailey said.

Regina Food Bank currently operates out of its sole location at 445 Winnipeg St.

The second location would be located at the former SLGA liquor store at the corner of Broad Street and 12th Avenue, and serve as the primary distribution point.

“The central location is really important because it improves geographical access for the folks who access our services. That’s the key driver in this,” said Bailey, adding accessibility would increase by 108 per cent in the new location.

“The fact that we’re able to brighten up a corner and make what is right now an unused and abandoned corner of the city vibrant with activity, with programming, and with people, quite frankly is a really exciting secondary benefit.”

The Regina Food Bank is in the process of purchasing the building from the provincial government.

The city’s executive committee supports the project and the location.

“On Broad Street there are bus routes easily available to it and it becomes a grocery store and it becomes a grocery store atmosphere,” said Regina mayor Sandra Masters.

In order to expand the downtown location’s footprint, the food bank is asking the city to lease the lot behind the building.

Executive committee voted in favour of leasing the city-owned lot for $1 per year. The committee also supported $100,000 of in-kind work for paving it.

“The property that we’re leasing to them has environmental contamination and has to be asphalted in order to protect use on top of it, so we’ll pay for that. In addition, we’ll do a $100,000 grant,” Masters said.

The food bank requested a $200,000 one-time cash donation from the city. Instead, administration recommended $100,000 in order to preserve funds in the Community Investment Grant Reserve for other organizations, which was supported by the majority of executive committee members.

“We’re going have to go out to the community—the business community or individuals inside this community—to make this up,” Bailey said.

“It’s not an insignificant chunk of change, but we’re confident the corporate community, the business community and individuals, will continue to have our back.”

City council will vote on the final approval at its next meeting on Dec. 7.

The downtown food hub would not replace the existing food bank location, but rather complement it, Bailey said.

The Regina Food Bank feeds 12,000 users each month and distributes 13,000 pounds of food each day.

The goal of the new location is to increase food sovereignty and source 50 per cent of the food from Saskatchewan producers.

“If everything comes wrapped in cellophane and is in tin cans, you lose that connection,” Bailey said.

Bailey estimates the project will cost $3.2 million, which will be funded through capital reserves, city and corporate investments and a public campaign.

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