Food waste is a growing problem as is the number of people in Ontario reaching out to food banks.
According to Food Secure Canada, there were almost 600,000 food-insecure households, meaning that families and individuals do not have an adequate access to food.
Food Rescue connects food businesses to community agencies in need. Food Rescue operates under the company Second Harvest. For 30 years, Second Harvest has connected large suppliers, like farms, with agencies like food banks for people who are in need of access to healthy foods.
According to the Second Harvest website, it is the largest food rescue operation in Canada and has saved over 127 million pounds of food from being thrown out.
Lori Nikkel is the Executive Director at Food Rescue and the Director of Programs at Second Harvest. Nikkel says that Food Rescue came to be in order to ensure they were recovering food from every potential supplier at every level.
“It’s just common sense. This is good healthy food that we would buy at a grocery store.”
Nikkel says that the organization wanted to find an alternative way of picking up the smaller donations. Keeping the Second Harvest trucks for larger loads, the retail and restaurant donations are transported by cyclists.
The process of of connecting the local business with the community agency is simple.
After the agency and business register online, they have the freedom to post what is available. From there someone from the agency is able to identify what they need and pick it up from the business.
“The donor puts in what they have, it populates up and picks agencies in that area. Somebody gets a notification and they pick it up.”
The food businesses vary; grocery stores can provide fresh produce and prepared meals, and restaurants are able to donate extra prep and prepared dishes as well.
They predominantly focus on protein, dairy and produce. Nikkel says up to 90% of what is donated is perishable.
Nikkel says that they take “anything and everything”, so long as it follows the food and safety compliance. She adds that they have not yet begun to accept meat products as there is a greater risk involved.
“If it’s not good enough for our families then we say to agencies, ‘dont take it’.”
By keeping food out of landfills, it also has cut back on possible greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s food. It’s not waste until we make it waste.”
According to the Second Harvest website, they’ve estimated that their operations have prevented over 70 million pounds of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.
“The reason why we do this- it’s environmental, with a hunger relief outcome.” Lori Nikkel, Second Harvest and Food Rescue.
Nikkel explains that when food is put into landfills it produces methane gas as it decomposes. Methane gas is roughly 25-30% more potent and destructive than CO2. Methane is a type of greenhouse gas and is a major contributor to climate change.
She also adds that people do not often associate food waste with climate change.
“If food waste were a country, it would be right under the United States and China” says Nikkel of the pollution. “It’s a huge problem across the whole value chain, and now we’re having a global conversation about this.”
For residents looking to divert organics away from the landfill, Nikkel says that composting and conscious shopping are ways to contribute.
“About 50% of food that is wasted is done at home.”
She also says that understanding ‘best before’ dates is crucial.
“It doesn’t mean the food is unsafe, it’s guideline and needs to be used that way.”