British Columbia

Lobster, prawns and wagyu beef: Food bank receives 'unprecedented' donation

Greater Vancouver Food Bank estimates donation at more than $200,000

Greater Vancouver Food Bank estimates donated value at more than $200,000

Staff are seen preparing food at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in Burnaby, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Baked beans and preserved peaches. Kraft Dinner and cans of tuna.

Despite a growing focus on fresh items, food banks have traditionally relied on these non-perishable staples.

But now families who depend on the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) can expect to feast on jumbo prawns, lobster tails, wagyu beef and other fine-dining delicacies — at least for a little while. 

On Wednesday, David Long, the food bank's CEO, announced that cruise line Holland America had donated seven shipping containers measuring more than 15 metres full of surf and turf and other luxury food items.

"It's well in excess of $200,000 in value," Long told Michelle Eliot, guest host of CBC's The Early Edition, on Thursday morning. 

The donated delicacies includes everything from sirloin steaks to cheesecakes. Long credited Food Banks Canada with helping to facilitate the donation and said he expects the food to last at least two to three months. 

On Tuesday, Holland America paused all of its scheduled cruises through Dec. 15, 2020. According to the Miami Herald, at least 72 people have died this year from COVID-19 related issues on cruises owned by Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Holland America.

This week's donation, which Long called "unprecedented," comes following a significant increase in demand at the food bank. 

In mid-March, the GVFB issued an urgent call for financial donations, shopping bags and volunteers in order to keep providing services amid the response to COVID-19. The B.C. government followed up with an emergency $5-million stimulus to help struggling food banks later that month. 

Before the recent government funding, the GVFB relied only on donations from the public, businesses and foundations to serve clients in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and on the North Shore. 

The GVFB, the largest food bank in the province, plans to offer some of the recently-donated food to other food banks in the region, said Long. During the COVID-19 crisis, he said, the GVFB has assisted as many as 17 of its smaller peers.

"The need is certainly going to go on," added Long about the rise in demand, highlighting the upcoming end to the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB).

"Hopefully, some people don't fall through the cracks. But if people do need food assistance, that's exactly why we're there."

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