Rising demand forces Ottawa Food Bank to find bigger home

The Ottawa Food Bank is moving from its current Michael Street location to a new warehouse on Bantree Street, more than twice the size of its current home — in the hopes that less food will go to waste.

Agency turns away thousands in donations each year due to lack of space

Rachael Wilson, CEO of the Ottawa Food Bank, is pictured at the food bank's Michael Street location earlier this month. The agency is relocating to a significantly larger building in industrial park off Innes Road later this year. (Giacomo Panico/CBC News)

The Ottawa Food Bank is moving to a spacious new home — and its CEO hopes it will mean less food goes to waste.

The agency will be leaving its current Michael Street location and leasing a new warehouse on Bantree Street in an industrial park off Innes Road.

The food bank has been around for nearly 40 years, with the last 18 at its current location.

"We've spent nearly half our life here," said CEO Rachael Wilson. "It'll be sad to see it go, but we know there's great things happening for us over at Bantree."

When the food bank first moved into its current building, it only used up half the space, Now, Wilson said, it's outgrown the entire 21,000-square-foot facility.

At 43,000 square feet, their new home will offer more than double the space, something they badly need, Wilson told CBC Radio's In Town and Out on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, that's because the need here in Ottawa just continues to grow," she said.

Executive Director Rachael Wilson says their current warehouse on Michael Street is bursting at the seams. She explains further why the charity had to find a new place to call home.

'More fresh food' for the community

One of the biggest upgrades to the new facility, Wilson said, is its additional cold storage.

"We'll be able to take more fresh and frozen donations," Wilson said. "And it means we'll be able to put out more fresh food into the community, which really means better health outcomes."

The Ottawa Food Bank's new warehouse space on Bantree Street is more than twice the size of its current home. (Giacomo Panico/CBC News)

Wilson said each year at the current facility, the food bank turns away about $80,000 worth of fresh food and donations.

There's so little space, it currently stores non-perishables at a second site.

Food prices in Canada jumped six and a half percent in Janary 2022, the biggest increase in more than a decade, according to Statistics Canada.

National data from Food Banks Canada also shows a 20 per cent increase in visits to food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wilson said the Ottawa Food Bank plans to begin renovations on its new space in April in preparation for a September move-in.

Donations fill the Ottawa Food Bank's current home on Michael Street. The food bank turns away thousands in donations each year due to lack of space. (Giacomo Panico/CBC News)