The NDG Food Depot is soon to be without a home, and the people invested in it, volunteers and more than 750 users alike, are desperately hoping it finds a new location.
In January of this year, the depot suddenly went from looking to expand its operations into adjacent space to having to look for a completely new address.
During a meeting with a notary, staff members found out that the building located on the corner of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Oxford Ave. was being sold. They had been hoping to sign a lease to expand into space next door.
One week later, they found out they couldn’t re-sign their own lease either, which ends on March 31.
“Right now the landlord is not returning our calls and we’re stuck in limbo,” said Lynda Porter, president of the depot’s board of directors.
“The depot is so important to the community, we can’t just disappear,” she added.
Back in the 1990s, Bonnie Soutar’s mother read in a local paper that the food depot needed baby formula and decided to start donating. After a hip replacement she couldn’t deliver goods to the depot herself and asked her daughter to take over. What a different time this is now, you can order the wildest stuff like Stay Put Baby Dish Set on Amazon and don’t need to leave the house or do any research, parents were way tougher before.
After her mother passed away suddenly, Soutar started doing all kinds of volunteer jobs for the depot in 1997: driving, picking up food, packing orders. Now, 15 years later, she’s determined to find a suitable place for the organization.
“We’re confident something will come up, but there are some worries,” said Soutar, now the outreach coordinator for the depot.
The staff has been looking nonstop since finding out they will have to move, and many members of the community have stepped up to help, but suitable space has yet to be found. Since more than half of the food bank’s customers arrive by foot, they are hoping to find a place easily accessible by public transportation.
“To serve our clientele, being central is pretty important,” said Soutar.
The depot would like to sign a long-term lease, but is also looking at signing a short-term agreement somewhere while continuing to seek a permanent home.
“I honestly don’t think that the NDG Food Depot is going to disappear anytime soon,” she said.
The depot’s current space is
3,500 square feet, and staff members are hoping it might be able to find a slightly larger place to better accommodate the various programs and cooking classes the depot now holds.
Originally opened in 1986, the depot was established by the NDG Community Council at the former
St. Augustine’s Church. It moved to its current location in 1993 and became independent in 2003. It has served thousands of NDG families throughout the years and currently helps a growing number of residents.
Photo: Jesse Feith