Durham is not ready for a vegetarian food bank

Toronto is launching a vegetarian and vegan food bank but Durham food bank distributors say they aren’t ready for the idea just yet.


Julien LeBourdais is the executive director for Feed the need Durham, a distribution center that supplies to food banks across Durham. LeBourdais says the prospect of having a vegetarian food bank lacks pragmatism for people in Durham.


“Durham is so spread out,” says LeBourdias. Because many of the people going to food banks arrive on foot or by bus, one of the biggest challenges is getting to them. He believes a specialty food bank approach seems too remote for those who need to travel to get to the food they need, especially when many relaying on these banks cannot afford it.


Every year, food banks are faced with an increased need from the year before.


“As a social problem its not getting better, it’s getting worse,” says LeBourdais.


With five to ten per cent of North Americans identifying themselves as vegetarians, for religious, health, environmental or ethical reasons, some utilizing food banks say the agencies should accommodate those needs.


LeBourdias thinks the goal of food banks should be to offer variety and educate people about nutrition, and not marginalize foods by individual preferences or dietary specialties.


“The system works best if there is enough choice,” says LeBourdias. He recognizes the merit of promoting plant-based foods but he says in many cases people lack experience with food preparation, especially when it comes to nonperishables, and they choose the packaged options instead.



Gail Nyberg is the executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank that distributes to nearly 200 food banks across the GTA.


Nyberg doesn’t believe food banks offer enough variety for vegetarians but says “it’s hard to gauge the need,” acknowledging those that follow a vegetarian diet won’t come to a bank when they know they cannot be accommodated.


Suraia Sahar is a vegetarian that makes routine visits depositing items to food banks. As a vegetarian, she contributes items that compliment her lifestyle and says, “It reinforces the idea that everyone is entitled to a good meal, and that we should value every person’s choices”.

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Marina Tyszkiewicz is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. When it comes to writing and reporting, she enjoys covering women’s issues, animal welfare issues and writing profile pieces. She likes to spend her spare time reading, writing, and researching. Marina hopes to freelance and have her own opinion column following graduation.