Food waste is morally opposed in all cultures. Worldwide, approximately 800 million people suffer from hunger. Nevertheless, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at the global level, 1.3 billion tons of food per year is wasted. To put that into perspective, that's about one third of the food produced on the entire planet and more than double what is needed to feed the hungry.
In underdeveloped countries, after food is harvested, large quantities of the product is being wasted due to lack of adequate storage space, poor roads and limited cooling devices. When these countries are compared to developed countries, it is clearly obvious that in the developed countries, more food is wasted from beginning to end in the distribution chain. This happens when traders order, use, or showcase too much food, when consumers ignore the food in the back of their refrigerators, or dispose of perishable goods before the expiry date.
Throwing away food takes its toll on environmental pollution. The production of food that no one eats means wasting water, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, fuel and land needed for food production. These amounts are not insignificant. Globally, the annual production of uneaten food drains more water than the amount discharged yearly from the Columbia River, which is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. These startling figures do not even include the losses from farms, ships and slaughterhouses. Wasted food is the third largest producer of waste gases in the world after China and the USA.
FACT: 30% of the yield of tangerines in Huaral, Peru do not meet the standards for export. Most of the discarded fruit is eaten locally, but globally, 46% of fruit and vegetables never arrive from farm to plate. Passing through the supply chain, more fruits and vegetables are lost or thrown away compared to other foods. Susceptible to damage and sensitive to changes in temperature on their way from the farm to the table, compared to other foods, fruits and vegetables are most often thrown away.
EAT THE UGLY: Each year in the USA, 2.5 million pounds of fruit and vegetables remain unharvested or unsold, often for aesthetic reasons. Standardized-looking products that Europe imposes, forced Kenyan farmers to throw away almost half of their harvest in fields or manufacturing plants because they do not fit into the class. For example, on a farm on a weekly basis, 40 tons of beans, broccoli, and peas are thrown away. That's enough to feed 250,000 people! FACT: In September 2015, the UN pledged to halve food waste by 2030.
Developed countries are responsible for most of the food that remains unsold on store shelves, on plates in restaurants in in domestic refrigerators.
Immigrant Link Centre Society has been in existence for one year. It was formed after implementing a free food “Win Win” project in LINC Program (immigrants and refugees).
We distribute perishable surplus food that’s still viable from grocery stores, (that would otherwise have been thrown out adding to landfill waste), free of charge. All of our clients are immigrants to Canada who are in need due to low income, vulnerability, refugees in transition, single moms or volunteers. We believe that no one should struggle to obtain the necessities of life.
Those in Need: We build trust, friendship and volunteering opportunities to even the most marginalized or at risk immigrants by including them in the mission to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, rather than feel like they’re just on the receiving end of a hand-out. They are educated regarding what the foods are, how to cook them, how to store them and given a chance to experiment with them.
Participating stores can do their part in reducing unnecessary waste by donating these food products to Immigrant Link Centre who will then distribute them to the needy. Not only does it improve the quality of life for immigrants, but there will be less waste taken to the landfill at a cost saving to the stores. Also the environment will be protected from less garbage and recipients will have a connection to these businesses due to their charitable efforts, thereby adding to their customer base.
Grocery Stores: We provide an opportunity for these stores to become more environmentally friendly by producing less waste and maintaining a positive image in the eyes of their socially conscious customers and stakeholders.
On Friday mornings, volunteer Igor Bjelac pulls up to the loading area behind the Sapperton Save-On Foods to pick up a healthy load of less-than-perfect produce.
That fresh food will make its way to meal programs from New Westminster to Vancouver, including Aunt Leah’s and the Union Gospel Mission, organized by an expanding social enterprise called Refood.
On Mondays, Bjelac helps distribute food to 40 refugee families at the Immigrant Link Centre. As a recent immigrant from Russia, Bjelac knows that Canada is a steep learning curve
“But while they learn how to get jobs and speak English, they never have to worry about going hungry,” he said.
The food-donation collaboration with the Immigrant Link Centre represents just a fraction of what Refood has been able to accomplish in the last two years.
In fact, Refood helps feed about 2,500 people a day with food that otherwise would have been thrown away.
“We help a lot of low-income refugees,” Bjelac said. “When they save that money they would have spent in food, they can buy shoes and clothes. It’s very helpful to them as they get started.”
The centre also collects food and helps with distribution to other organizations, including a First Nations school and meal programs on the Downtown Eastside.
Refood is the organization at the heart of the community’s effort to leverage food that would otherwise be wasted.
Founder Danison Buan’s goals are three-fold: Reduce food waste, feed the hungry and educate youth.
“I started Refood two years ago after I submitted the idea to ONE Prize and it was successful,” he said. ONE Prize — which includes a $2,000 grant — is sponsored by Donald’s Market and River Market in New Westminster.
“At first I had no grocery stores on board, but we started to work with Donald’s Market after winning the competition; after that we got one Save-On Foods store as well,” he said.
Since the ONE Prize win in 2015, Refood has become something of a darling in the social enterprise community, winning VanCity’s Best Pitch contest and the Coast Capital Venture Prize Social Impact Award. His collaborator Schannel Siregar also scooped the Tammy Moyer Women of Worth Award for Sustainable Living.
“Right now we are scaling up, because we have added more Save-On Foods stores, PriceSmart, Unfi Canada,” he said. “At first we were just in New West, but now we work in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond as well. We have nine food sources now.”
Volunteers pick up food donations — fresh food too ugly for perfection-obsessed customers — two to three times a week from each store.
Besides Immigrant Link Centre, their recipient organizations include Dixon Transition House, Vancouver Outreach, Union Gospel Mission, St. Barnabas Church, Lookout Society, Aunt Leah’s Place and others.
“By providing them with food, we allow these organizations to divert money from their food services to other uses and strengthen their programming,” he said.
What makes Refood work is attention to logistics. “What each organization gets and on what days is carefully curated, so they know what to expect,” he said. “Nothing is random; the food and the timing have to be consistent.”
Although the organization is structurally a charity — its registration is pending — Buan is developing revenue streams to buy equipment and to compensate volunteers for their expenses. One such scheme allows people who donate $50 to $100 to get their taxes professionally prepared for free.
The most pressing need at the moment is a refrigerated truck to transport perishable foods. Volunteers are hauling food in personal vehicles, none bigger than an SUV. In practical terms, that means they have to distribute what they pick up in less than an hour.
The truck is essential to support the rapid expansion of the service, he said.
Read the article and watch the video on the page vancouversun.com
Christine Baron, BA, LLB
Legal Services Director for the Bobinski Business Law Clinic
Peter A. Allard School of Law
University of British Columbia
Danison Buan Refood Charity
With his help "Win Win" project has come to life