When Brandon’s Food Rescue Store receives items that would otherwise be discarded, sometimes there are items that don’t always align with its vision of selling discounted grocery items to residents.
Take, for example, a load of disinfectant wipes received last year that John Howard Society of Brandon executive director Ross Robinson said were still lying around at the Rosser Avenue location.
That’s why the company has launched a new operation at the same location with a similar but distinct goal: to divert commercial, household and food quantities in larger quantities than the Food Rescue Store can handle from the landfill.
Proceeds from sales flow back into operations to cover staff salaries, pay rent and keep the project alive.
Since late July, Warehouse Rescue has been offering interested parties items received from Winnipeg distribution centers such as soap, face masks, hand sanitizer, chopsticks, knives and even peppermint syrup.
“Just like on the food side, distributors don’t like to throw stuff away,” Robinson said. “They don’t like throwing away perfectly good, still-wrapped stuff. It hurts them as much as the food. We didn’t ask for it, it just started coming on our trucks with our food.
Although both organizations are under the umbrella of the John Howard Society, they are handled separately – Food Rescue staff cannot assist with Warehouse Rescue requests and vice versa.
Unlike the Food Rescue Store, customers can’t just walk in and browse the selection at set times.
The operation is managed by Elizabeth Morrow, who announces items received by the store on social media and arranges in advance for interested parties to pick them up at the building (719 Rosser Ave.), usually on Mondays.
“Most of it is commercial items, but you also have things like lids for containers but no containers, or containers without lids, plastic cutlery, hand sanitizer, soap” , Morrow said. “It’s a whole bunch of things.”
So far, Morrow said it’s been small, independent businesses that have benefited from the store’s services.
“My biggest hope is to continue to get products that are going to be thrown away and get them to someone who can use them,” she said.
The best way to see what Warehouse Rescue has to offer is to follow its Facebook page or sign up for a mailing list hosted by Morrow which provides weekly updates on what’s in stock.
To arrange for something to be purchased, Morrow said customers can message him through the Facebook page or call him at 431-541-4321.
Robinson also got some news that will ultimately benefit both operations.
He said the John Howard Society received federal funding through the Reaching Home program that the Brandon Neighborhood Renewal Corporation administers locally. The money will be used to set up a storage area made up of several shipping containers on the grounds of the Transolution Truck Centers on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway.
When ready, this will allow both operations to store goods in two air-conditioned containers and another for dry goods. It will also give Morrow a place to work so the two stores don’t have to share the same building.
Through Robinson’s interactions with customers, it’s clear that the Food Rescue store is making a difference in their lives.
At this point, Robinson said he was confident the store could maintain operations without the need for external funding, although food and cash donations were accepted.
During The Sun’s interview with Morrow and Robinson on Friday, several customers had already lined up outside the Food Rescue Store more than half an hour before its scheduled opening time.
Offerings for the day included a table full of fresh vegetables donated by a local Hutterite colony.