The Red Cedar Café, now operating out of the former Willie's Bakery storefront on Johnson Street, is a small organization that has had an outsized impact on the community in response to the pandemic. As of today, they will have delivered over 5000 free, healthy meals seniors, people in self-isolation and other members of the community. The ease of ordering online and having food delivered clearly appeals to people in need of support. Since it was founded in April 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cedar Cafe has scaled up to provide over 1200 free meals to the community each week.
Community members and organizations who are able have been eager to lend their support by volunteering and donating to the project. “We are heartened by the outpouring of community support, volunteer labour and donations,” said Liz Maze, a volunteer and Community Relations Coordinator with the Red Cedar Café. The program is fueled by a team of 160 volunteers, and has benefited from donations of raw ingredients and funds, and has received support from organizations including Khalsa Aid Canada, Fairway Market, Saanich Organics, Whole Foods, the Food Share Network, Patisserie Daniel, Cobs Bakery, Irene’s Bakery, the Fairfield-Gonzales Community Association and the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resources Group.
Referrals from agencies including the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Esquimalt First Nation have extended the reach of the program, including to residents of social housing facilities operated by BC Housing, the Victoria Cool Aid Society and Pacifica Housing. The program also delivers 300 hot meals weekly to people without homes. “As we distribute our 5000th free meal today," says Maze "we look ahead to the Covid-19 recovery and how we can strengthen community connections to ensure that everyone has access to nutritious food and other essentials for living a good and healthy life.”