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Gloves off in Metro Vancouver Mayors Food Bank Challenge

Who will win bragging rights for being the most generous community in 2023?
Greater Vancouver Food Bank chief operating officer Cynthia Boulter addresses the media at the launch of the annual Mayors Food Bank Challenge in Burnaby, May 2, 2023. She is joined by New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone, West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager, Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley and City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan. | Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Five Metro Vancouver mayors are aiming to fill the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s coffers at a time when more people than ever are in need of help.

City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, District of West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager, City of Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, City of New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone and City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan are all competing in the third annual Mayors Food Bank Challenge.

After some light ribbing between competitors at the official launch event at the food bank’s Burnaby warehouse Tuesday, they mayors will now be expected to go through sizable personal and corporate contact lists and start banging the drum for donations.

“I think it’ll be a good competition,” said Cynthia Boulter, chief operating officer of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. “I think the mayors have a good understanding of what food insecurity looks like in their communities.”

The goal is to have the mayors pull in $500,000, which the Food Bank can easily stretch into $1 million worth of food with their buying power. If they are buying produce direct from farmers, the ratio can grow as high as nine to one, Boulter said.

“It is absolutely one of the largest and farthest-reaching [fundraisers],” she said.

The launch of the competition comes as the rising cost of living has been driving more than 16,000 people per month to their local food banks and the number is only growing.

“Regionally, we are seeing numbers at levels that we have never before. Right now, we’re signing up between 800 and 1,000 people a month on average,” she said. “So, the numbers are skyrocketing.”

In raw numbers, every demographic group is increasing, but its is children and singles that are the fastest growing groups without their basic nutrition needs being met. Immigrants too are showing up in greater numbers, particularly those who have escaped the war in Ukraine, Boulter said.

The winner of the competition will be determined by a formula that takes into account the amount of money raised proportionate to the size of the city’s population. Since the competition began in 2021, City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan has run the table, raising the most cash per capita two years in a row.

“No one should go hungry. But the reality is that many people in our community – friends, coworkers, neighbours – are food insecure and anyone can experience food insecurity over the course of their life,” Buchanan said in a release. “This month-long campaign will allow us to talk about food insecurity, raise awareness, and generate funds to support those in need. As the defending champions, I trust that people in the city will again rally behind being a caring community.”

Anyone who wants to help their local mayor nudge their community’s name to the top of the “most generous” list in the friendly competition can donate via

In January, 2022, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank stopped conducting food hamper drives with members of the public because the types of food that came in were typically not the most nutritious and often were already going bad. Instead, the Food Bank now provides community members with tools to help them raise cash, which goes a lot farther to feeding hungry tummies in the community.

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