Did you know that 58% of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted?
In 2019, that represented 11.17 metric tons of food, which is the equivalent of more than 90 CN Towers. So says Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, suggesting that almost a third of this waste is completely avoidable. Most food waste happens occurs in processing, production, manufacturing and distribution, however each household reportedly wastes $1,766 of food, while one in six Canadian households are reportedly facing food insecurity. Second Harvest is not just pointing out the problem: they are taking action to address it. Millbrook and District Food Share and Millbrook Foodland have joined Second Harvest to become part of the solution.
Second Harvest is in the food recovery and redistribution business. It collects unsold, healthy food and redirects it to people in need, providing the double benefit of helping to satisfy hunger while diverting it from landfills. Second Harvest works with donors across the country including farms, manufacturers, distributers, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants to rescue unsold and surplus food. Donors include grocery stores in the Loblaw, Sobey, Walmart, Costco and Metro chains; manufacturers such as Kraft/Heinz, Agropur, Del Monte and McCain as well as restaurant chains and food service businesses.
The donated food is redirected to distributors which make sure it is provided to people in need through charities and non-profit organizations such as food banks, shelters, meal programs, drop-in centres and school programs.
Millbrook Food Share now collects a large portion of the food it distributes directly from the Millbrook Foodland. The retailer donates surplus food to Food Share through a computer application linked to Second Harvest. Each donated item is logged, from canned goods to bread and even meat. Because the donations are tracked, donors receive charitable receipts for their donated food. Foodland stories perishable food including bread and meat products in a dedicated freezer at the back of the store each day prior to the items’ best before date, ensuring items remain safe to eat.
On Tuesdays, volunteers from Food Share pick up the donations to replenish the stock available for its customers, who collect the items they require in the afternoon. Bread and pastry products are displayed on a table for selection, and any items not picked up that day are delivered to the common room at the Millbrook Manor, where they are greeted by an appreciative audience. The organization does not have enough freezer space to keep these products beyond the date they are picked up.
This new program has expanded the variety and magnitude of protein options available for Food Share clients to include regular selections of meat. When limited freezer space prevented Foodland from keeping surplus turkeys after Easter, Food Share customers received a welcome donation of 20 birds.
Food Share volunteers report that the demand for their services has risen by 300% in the past year. This is largely because the size of the households they serve has increased dramatically. Gentrification of the downtown area resulted in the departure of many of their former, single-family customers which have been replaced by ones consisting of large families. In another boost to local food security, the organization is now open four Tuesdays a month instead of three.
To manage the growing demand and make food distribution more equitable, Food Share now categorizes customers by the size of their household, which determines the amount of food they can collect each week.
Food Share still relies on Kawartha Food Share for a portion of its supplies, and cash donations o supplement donated products. The increases in food prices has reduced the leverage the organization used to see in their cash purchases. Where they used to believe they could purchase $6 of food with a $1 donation by leveraging their connections and bulk buying during sales, but now they say the leverage is now $2 for every dollar of donations. Cash donations are still valuable as they provide the flexibility to purchase the type of food they need the most.
The investment in a new computer has allowed Food Share to optimize their food supply while managing the demand to make it more equitable, contributing to the reduction of food insecurity and food waste in the community. KG