Quest Food Exchanges’s mandate is to Reduce hunger with dignity, Build Community and Foster Sustainability.
Reduce hunger with dignity
Without the basic necessity of sufficient food, people face many avoidable difficulties. People with fixed low incomes weaken and become prone to disease. Children cannot learn productively. Single-parent families cannot escape the cycle of poverty. People living with restrictive health conditions and/or disabilities cannot heal and improve their lives. The homeless population is further put at risk.
Quest redirects quality food from every branch of the local food industry that might otherwise go to waste. Food is then sorted, processed, and redistributed to organizations and people who need it most.
Currently, Quest helps to provide food assistance to individuals, families and not-for-profit organizations in the Lower Mainland through our not-for-profit grocery markets.
Quest collaborates with an ever-increasing number of stakeholders in their focused communities of the Lower Mainland. Through this collaboration we recover and redistribute surplus food and necessities. Quest builds communities of like-minded individuals by working with partners such as:
- Neighbourhood Houses
- Mental Health Organizations
- Employment Training Programs
- Seniors’ Centres
- Recovery Homes
- HIV/AIDS Organizations
- Schools and Daycare Centres
- Food Banks
- Certified Professionals
By taking care of the food needs of their clientele, Quest enables these agencies to focus their time, energy and funding on their respective core strengths. This allows them to maximize the positive impact they can have on the needs of the community.
Quest offers an opportunity for individuals to volunteer in our markets with a view to reintegrating back into the community, increasing self-esteem, make empowering choices and supplement their food sources. For some, Quest has been an opportunity to gain practical work skills to get back into the job market.
By redistributing quality surplus food, Quest is not only feeding people, we are reducing the amount of loss and waste from various branches of the food supply chain. Allowing food to decompose in the landfill is harmful to the environment as it releases greenhouse gas emissions such as methane. Not only that, we are losing precious resources that go into food production such as water and energy and missing out on vital nutrients and sustenance from the food itself.
Since its outset, Quest has always been environmentally-minded. Recycling has been of great importance to our success. In 2005, we collaborated with EcoAction Canada effectively reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and further reduced our waste by composting and recycling. Quest aims to reduce all food waste to zero. Through our “Zero Waste Project”, EcoAction Canada contributed to transform non-consumable solid food waste into livestock feed and compost for use by local farmers and community gardens.
We also distribute all non-organic materials such as food packaging to community services who have better use for certain items or are equipped with programs to safely process them, ultimately reducing landfill waste and harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Currently, Quest partners with Urban Impact, which helps small businesses implement effective recycling programs. Smithrite has also been integral in helping Quest to compost leftover food. As a result, we have received numerous awards for environmentally-sound business practices.
History of Quest Food Exchange
The Beginning: 1989 – 1992
The humble beginnings of Quest Food Exchange started in 1989, when a youth group from Saint James Anglican Church delivered sandwiches to homeless people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The public responded positively and the volunteers were inspired to continue their street outreach program. With a clear demand for healthy food in the DTES, Quest volunteers went from handing out sandwiches, to running a soup kitchen under the name “The Quest” in the basement of Saint James Anglican Church located at 303 East Cordova Street.
Quest Outreach Society: 1992 – 2006
In 1992, the program known as “The Quest” became incorporated as “Quest Outreach Society”.
By 1995, Quest was serving breakfast Monday through Saturday to 300 – 450 people each day. Lunch or evening dinners were also served six times a week from three locations in the downtown core of Vancouver. Each meal included coffee, juice, dessert, the main course, plus food to take home.
Quest offered free pick-up of discarded newspaper, office paper and cardboard, to provide revenue through recycling. We were also operating children’s programs at six Vancouver Neighbourhood houses, Grandview Elementary School, Crabtree Corner and Sheway. Another program included a daily street-kids outreach at Trade Works on East Powell where 25 to 35 kids received hot lunches.
Food drives and depots were also organized through Vancouver and Burnaby Schools under the name “Bag It For Hunger”. These bags helped add food to the “Food Drive ‘95” which was held in conjunction with Canada Post. On top of all this, every Wednesday, Quest was operating six other food depots in the Vancouver area. Seventeen other lower mainland agencies saw deliveries of bulk food delivered to their doors. A whopping total of 30,000 pounds of bulk food was being delivered!
In 1997, Quest realized there was enough unwanted food available to support our program and many other agencies as well. This allowed us to refocus our vision on becoming the medium between suppliers of unwanted food and Social Service Agencies that could use and distribute it.
Our first annual “Harvest of Hope Food Drive” was held in October of 1999, when 55 groups joined forces (schools, service groups, and businesses) in raising 62,000 pounds of food and almost $5,500.00 in cash donations.
Quest went digital in 2001 when we built a new website with help provided by local graphic artist, Odette Hidalgo, of The Hired Gun, and programming provided by website designer, Veronica Bryan, co-owner of Creatia.
By 2002 thousands of people every month were aided by Quest through our hot sit-down meals and food distribution to more than seventy Social Service Agencies and emergency food hampers for families in need. We have received help from many companies offering their contributions. Employees from BC CTV donated their time and efforts to update our facilities. Central City Mission Foundation contributed $8,400 toward shelving at our distribution centre. We even received a van for distribution needs thanks to an anonymous donor and dealership representative.
In 2003, CKNW Orphans Fund donated $97,000 to Quest! This money was used to purchase food-processing equipment that would help extend the life of perishables, and also reduce waste. Quest began a program that would redistribute excess food from over 100 restaurants, grocery store chains and wholesalers at the 1217 East Georgia distribution centre.
BC Technologies Social Venture Partners (BCT SVP) contributed $35,000 towards a computerized Warehouse Management System to improve logistical systems at Quest’s distribution centre. This initial investment and consulting assistance marks the first project of a planned three-year involvement with Quest.
By 2004, Quest made an official move to the 1217 East Georgia distribution centre location in hopes of fulfilling operational needs independent of Saint James Church. Through grant money, we acquired a meat slicer, a meat grinder, a commercial steam kettle, canning equipment, a commercial grade food scale, and food packaging sealers for the distribution centre and future Quest Community Kitchen. McDonald’s Restaurants also played an important role by donating a commercial juicer for the kitchen.
A great leap for Quest occurred in 2005, when, in the spring, we received funding from the CCF Community Care Foundation and the John Hardie Mitchel Family Foundation to construct a food processing facility.
Quest Food Exchange: 2006-Present
In 2006, Quest thrived with only ten full-time employees, multiple volunteers and 290 suppliers. With this, we were able to open a new commercial kitchen for Vancouver’s DTES. At this time, we received no government funding; running projects entirely on private donations and foundation grants.
In a partnership with Karyo, we officially changed our name to “Quest Food Exchange.” With our rebranding, we also received a new website and visual identity, new marketing collateral, and delivery truck decals. With that, we were able to launch our new brand while receiving our most prestigious award: the $1 million VanCity Award.
By this time, Quest’s food recovery model was adjusted to focus on not-for-profit grocery markets. With a distribution centre already located at 1217 E Georgia, an accompanying grocery market opened adjacent.
As of April 2008, we had opened our second Quest Food Exchange grocery market at 104th Avenue in Surrey. And, in July, we opened our third not-for-profit grocery market at 346 East Hastings. At this time, we were also able to form a new partnership with Boston Pizza saving their quality unused food.
While it is now closed, in our kitchen at 290 E Hastings, Quest prepared about 900 hot sit-down meals, using the food we distributed. These hot meals were served to homeless and street people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by our social service agency partners.
In October of 2009, with great thanks to VanCity and its members, Quest has transitioned from our East Georgia distribution centre to our very own building at 2020 Dundas Street. This property is an essential component of our expansion targets and better meets our operational needs.
Primarily, the Dundas site offers a considerably larger area which Quest can devote to its distribution and operational activities. This provides Quest with more than double the amount of space to expand warehousing and food distribution capacity. In addition, the site has two docking bays which increase delivery and distribution efficiency and has surface parking at the rear of the building for Quest’s vehicles.
In July of 2011, Quest’s Hastings location moved three blocks east, occupying a street-front retail space at the brand new United Gospel Mission building.
The Community Kitchen opened at our Dundas location in November of 2012. View video.
In August of 2013, Quest opens its Burnaby/New West Not-For-Profit Grocery Market, bringing its total grocery markets to four! This market is located at 7753 6th Street, near the corner of 6th St. and 12th Ave. in Burnaby, close to the Burnaby-New Westminster border.
Board of Directors
Marilyn Bergen, President
James de Hoop , Director
Carol Crow, President
Freed Cirillo , Director
Eddie McWhirter , Treasurer
Naveed Noorani, Director
Peter Brasso , Director
Caroline Smart , Director
Patrick Beirne, Secretary
John Milobar, Director
Jaz Poole, Director