The idea of food rescue, or keeping edible food out of the waste stream and getting it to the people who need it, has been gaining traction in recent years.  An extension of food banks, food rescue programs

According to statistics compiled in 2014 from Value Chain Management International, an estimated $31 billion worth of food ends up in landfills or composters/anaerobic digesters in Canada each year. Furthermore, approximately 850,000 Canadians use food banks every month according to Food Banks Canada.  The object of food rescue programs is to match the edible food that would otherwise be wasted with individuals and families that would be the clientele of a food bank.

The Value Chain Management report identified the wasting of food as a major financial cost.  Besides the cost of managing the food waste, there are other costs including energy, labour, water use, and other resources used to produce and distribute food that is wasted. The report estimates that, for businesses, the total cost of waste occurring along a value chain can exceed the combined margins of the involved companies. For consumers, avoidable food waste can increase the cost of food by 10 percent or more.

University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University, British Columbia

This past summer, CBC profiled fifteen initiatives across Canada in which efforts were being made to reduce food waste.  One of the programs, at the University of Victoria is a great example of food rescue.  A student organization, the Community Cabbage serves a free weekly hot meal to the campus community prepared from reclaimed food.  The reclaimed food is edible but is unsold food donated by grocery stores.  A team of volunteers use these ingredients to cook a healthy vegetarian meal at a community kitchen. Anyone is welcome to join in the cooking and/or eating. The organization is also working to develop an on-campus collective kitchen that provides regular free meals, food education programming, and a venue for other organizations to use in their work.

Food Rescue Volunteers at the University of Victoria

At Simon Fraser University, a student led organization called Embark runs a food recovery program.  Volunteers collect healthy yet imperfect-looking produce that do not meet the selling criteria of supermarket chains and redistribute it to the university community for free or by donation.

Durham Region, Ontario

In Durham Region, just east of Toronto, a number of businesses have participated in a food reclamation pilot project that includes the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) with funding by a grant from the Walmart Foundation.  In an interview with the Uxbridge Times Journal, Daniel Bida, project Manager at the RCO stated, “This way the food, which is still very much good food, is going to the people who need it.  On the hierarchy of what we want to do with food we want it to be going into people’s tummies before we look at trying to manage it sustainably.

The pilot includes a new partnership between the Oshawa Centre and Feed the Need in Durham, with participating food court restaurants donating left over food that is picked up by Feed the Need every Monday and Wednesday, and dropped off to the Refuge and the Back Door Mission.

“What’s so great about the Oshawa Centre is there’s a cluster of restaurants being managed together, so it gave us the opportunity to aggregate, which for food rescue organizations is extremely valuable, because instead of making seven or eight pick ups, you’re only doing one,” Bida explained to the Uxbridge Times Journal, noting many of the restaurants hadn’t started anything on their own because they felt there was never enough left to make a difference, as it was often side dishes or other small items left over at the end of the night.

“The staff that collect the green bins every night were keenly aware there was perfectly edible food ending up in the bin because there was nowhere else to take it. They just needed somewhere to store it until it could be picked up.”  Those donations, in aggregate, can form complete meals that service organizations can then use in whole or to supplement what they are already serving to clients.

“Anything we can do to improve our recycling practices and get involved in the community, we’re on it,” said Craig Walsh, operations manager for the Oshawa Centre, noting he hopes to expand the programs to the mall’s standalone restaurants in the near future.

Leftovers Foundation, Alberta

With volunteer operations in Calgary and Edmonton, the Leftovers Foundation is an organization that rescues food from being thrown in the garbage, and ensure it gets to service agencies in need. The perishable food is delivered to various agencies and locations that use the food to feed the needy.

As part of the program, four women volunteers at Leftovers Canada are creating a mobile phone app that make a donating food to service agencies more like working for Uber.  Traneice Aranda and Donnattella Salvador, both 16, Veyra Pascual, 17, and Leanne Bui, 18, are currently developing the Leftovers app, in conjunction with the foundation of the same name.