Every year in Canada we generate $31 billion in food waste, equaling more than 6 billion kilos of food.
There are many organizations operating successful food recovery programs that strive to divert as much food waste as possible from the landfill, instead directing it to food banks, residents in need, and local farmers.
A survey conducted in Revelstoke in 2013 on food waste in the community calculated the amount of food waste from roadside garbage pickup to be 32.2 per cent. In 2014, Revelstoke developed a Food Security Strategy (FSS) that identified many recommendations on how the community could increase its food security.
The second recommendation stated a goal to develop environmentally sustainable food production, with an objective of reducing food waste by redirecting organic waste products as valuable agricultural inputs, and recovering organic waste that is still edible and redistributing it.
Revelstoke Community Connections was grateful to receive funding from the CBT, who provided a Social Grant of $4,300 that boosted the Food Recovery Program and gave it the capacity it needed to expand and improve its operations. The program aims to decrease food waste in the community while redirecting edibles to vulnerable citizens.
The Food Recovery Program developed a connection with the Supported Employment Program and created a new job for a local resident, who is in charge of collecting food from participating businesses. The program has found that food is being wasted mostly due to best-before dates, packaging issues and unsold product.
Businesses who choose to donate food rather than toss it in the garbage are protected by the BC Food Donor Encouragement Act. All donated food is inspected for safety, and anything deemed ‘inedible’ is donated to local farmers who use it for animal feed or compost.
In just three and a half months, the Revelstoke Food Recovery Program diverted 16,718 pounds of food (and all of its packaging) from the local landfill. This is equivalent to a savings in value of $41,795. A total of 64.2 per cent of this diverted food was redistributed to individuals in need in the community, while 22.5 per cent went to the food bank, 12 per cent went to agencies and 1 per cent to farmers. To date, more than 90,000 pounds of food has been diverted from the Revelstoke landfill.
In Nelson, the Nelson Food Cupboard is another local organization operating a successful food recovery program.
Here, volunteers from the Food Cupboard pick up surplus food twice a week from local commercial kitchens and divert still edible items and their packaging from entering the landfill.
This food is frozen and given to food bank clients.
Food Banks BC has partnered with three BC based food banks, including the Revelstoke Community Connections food bank, to develop a Perishable Food Recovery Program Guide to assist food banks of all sizes to take advantage of viable, surplus perishable food. A major program goal is to divert good food from landfills and redirect it to the plates of community residents.
There are many recommendations to reduce food waste in your home.
Reducing your personal food waste means you save money while keeping good food and it’s packaging from entering the landfill. It’s a win-win for you, the environment and our local economy.
What steps will you take to begin reducing the food waste in your household?
Miche Warwick is the founder of the Rossland Mountain Market Society and the Editor of the ‘Eat Kootenay Local’ seasonal food + farm newsletter. She regularly contributes articles to ag-focused publications across North America and engages eaters with the food on their plates through her Kootenay-based food blog: eatgrowflourish.com.