Food rescue services are not new, but the recent pandemic has shed light on the integral role they play in supporting local communities via partnerships with grocery retailers and food banks. And the demand for food rescue has surged so much that it has resulted in a spin-off service, Good Soup Project that launched April 1.
Graham Hill, executive director of food rescue organization Food for Life, is the organizer behind the new service that takes unused institutional sized volumes of fresh food collected from grocery stores and food service businesses and provides the ingredients to local public kitchen partners who make fresh meals for the public.
“We’ve been an important outlet for grocery stores and food service providers during the COVID-19 outbreak. What has happened is that with stores limiting the number of items people can purchase and the number of people shopping in-stores, they’re receiving more fresh produce than they can handle. We didn’t want to turn away these large volumes of food.”
Instead, Food for Life partnered with local public health kitchens who create meals out of the fresh food ingredients.
“We freeze the foods so we’re able to extend the harvest. We can create a healthy meal for $1.33. We started April 1 and we’ve already made 18,000 litres of good healthy soup that we’ve shared with communities in need; that’s the equivalent of about 50,000 meals,” explains Hill.
Food for Life is part of the National Food Rescue Coalition. The charity has been serving the needs of communities in Halton and Hamilton since 1995. Hill says demand for his organization’s service has surged since the pandemic began and the grocers have been important contributors.
“About 30 per cent of the food we rescue comes from the grocery retail sector. We’re in grocery stores two to three times a week and staff at many stores have built us into their community network. For example, Fortinos expanded with us on our annual turkey drive. It’s an opportunity to educate the public about food waste and explain our role in diverting that food waste – we’re not a food bank and we don’t store food. We receive food and turn it around with 24 to 48 hours for people who need it.”
Hill says he works with most of the main grocers in the area and says it’s a win/win situation. Grocers can save money on the waste management side by diverting fresh food – at cost - and Food for Life is able to provide fresh food to people in need.”
One grocer who works with Food for Life is Fortinos. Beverly Wright, director of marketing for Fortinos, says Food for Life is "a phenomenal organization" and helps support local communities. "It has the infrastructure to collect food from grocery stores like Fortinos and others and it can quickly turn it around and give it back to communities."
Hill says Food for Life rescued approximately four million pounds of food in 2019 and is on pace to rescue close to five million pounds in 2020.
“We have full cold chain custody supply system, so we’re able to guarantee product is protected from the moment of pick-up to the moment individuals get parcels of food. We don’t charge any service fees to end users of the program and rely on donations. And we work closely with food banks because many don’t have trucks, so we pick up on their behalf.”