Either use it, or donate it.
That is the message coming out of last week’s food forum hosted by the Middlesex-London Food Policy Council to a group of roughly 30 attendees. Many of those in attendance at Western University’s London Hall were connected to the London Food Coalition (LFC), a group consisting of 23 charitable agencies tasked with ensuring the city’s less fortunate have access to food security programs.
Through the coalition, approximately 3000 individuals a week are provided with nutritious meals donated from major grocery store chains like Costco and Metro as well as smaller local businesses and individual consumers. These generous donations are facilitated through the use of the LFC’s refrigerated truck, which has been in operation since October of 2017. Since its rollout last fall, the truck has received about 38,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have found its way into local landfills.
Doug Whitelaw, the Executive Director of the Ark Aid Street Mission, as well as a member of the LFC describes the process of food collection through the refrigerated truck.
“It’s picked up from the donors and it goes to the [Salvation Army] Centre of Hope and then the member agencies access their portion of the food from there”- Doug Whitelaw
While the London Food Coalition brings in a significant amount of food, it seldom has to throw away any of its donations as the resourcefulness of the various agencies are able to maximize the lifespan of the donated items either by canning, freezing or other repurposing methods. This capability to prolong the life of donated food is one of the reasons this past Thursday’s conference focused its discussions on expanding its network of donors. Currently of the 70 grocery stores in London, only 6 regularly donate to the LFC.
Concerns surrounding food safety were cited as a reason for the lack of volume as many consumers and businesses question the validity of best before and expiry dates. Fortunately, the forum had former chef turned lawyer, Paul Shand in attendance to address outlying worries around food safety.
“As long as your not donating food that is unfit for human consumption or rotten, or as long as you don’t intend for anyone to get sick by donating that food, you should not be held liable for any injury or death that results from donating the food”-Paul Shand
According to research from the London Poverty Research Centre at King’s University College, there are 80,000 people in London and the surrounding region living below the poverty line; 26,000 of those live without food security, meaning they cannot afford regular nutritious meals.