Too Much Food Just Miles From Too Little

Tofino is overstocked with unused tourist food going to waste, meanwhile emergency delivery truck needed in Port Alberni

Highway closure has different effects across WestIsle

You’ve probably been reading about how broken global supply chains are causing everything from drug shortages to high prices to inflation.

To most of us, it’s hard to wrap our heads around what exactly a “supply chain” actually is. 

Well, here in the WestIsle, we, unfortunately, are having an up-too-close-and-personal demonstration. 

A primary road closure has had completely opposite short-term effects on different WestIsle towns.

Highway 4, which connects Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet with the rest of Vancouver Island, has been shut down due to debris dropping on the road from The Cameron Bluffs wildfire.

The shutdown has isolated West Isle residents from the rest of the island, and it’s been wreaking very different kinds of havoc – especially when it comes to Food Banks.

Tofino, heading into the peak of its tourist season, was all set for thousands of visitors to be flocking the town over the last week.

Businesses ordered more food to meet this expected need.

With the highway suddenly closed, all these tourists became no-shows.

Since then, businesses have been trying everything to avoid all this extra food from going to waste.

“There’s nobody here,” Tofino Mayor Dan Law told Times Colonist.

“The food bank is absolutely loaded. I visited today and businesses are having to unload their food because we have tonnes of supply but not nearly the amount of ­visitors.”

On the bright side, Tofino residents have been experiencing some insanely low produce prices on produce for once!

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Port Alberni has struggled to pull food out of thin air.

To meet the need, The Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank in Nanaimo just sent out an emergency truck full of supplies.

“From the people I know, it’s been pretty panicky there,” said Alex Counsell, Loaves Director of Operations. “I know food and fuel are getting there now, but I also know that the grocery stores there have been running out of things. We are going to be bringing quite a bit of food.”

Salvation Army Major Michael Ramsay also told Times Colonist the need has become pretty dire over the last few days.

“Food and necessities haven’t been able to get into town. Our supplies have been down by about 25 percent already. A lot of where we get some of our food is from the grocery stores, and there just isn’t enough coming in.”

The Bread of Life soup kitchen and the Alberni Valley Salvation Army Community Food Bank feed about 800 people daily. They have experienced an increased demand and want to ensure they can keep up.

Hopefully, things will even out for both towns in the near future.

The highway is expected to open a single-traffic lane the weekend of June 24, with full reopening a few weeks later in mid-July.

It won’t bring back the mobs of tourists Tofino was expecting, but it should bring enough essential and non-essential traffic to balance out both areas’ food supplies.

BC Wildfire Service has said The Cameron Bluffs wildfire has decreased over the past few days and is not expected to spread.

The fire is still sitting at 226 hectares in size, down from 250 at its peak.