Leftovers: solving food insecurity with food waste

When Lourdes Juan saw how quickly 200 pounds of bread could be eaten, she knew she was on to something big.

Juan, a Calgary-based urban planner and business owner, came up with the idea for Leftovers back in 2012 when she helped her cousin pick up some excess bread from a COBS Bread location. COBS keeps their shelves full and doesn’t sell day-old bread, so they have a lot to donate each day. 200 pounds was far too much for her cousin’s church, so he and Juan took the remainder to Calgary’s Drop-In centre. They were told that it would all be gone by the next morning, as the centre serves about 3000 meals a day.

The experience was the catalyst for Juan to start the Leftovers program as a way to address two major food issues at once.

“We try to solve one problem with the other problem,” Juan says. “We take excess food from different vendors in Calgary – so restaurants, grocery stores, markets – and we redirect that food to service agencies in need.

“Right now we do about 3000 pounds of food a week in Calgary and that equates to about 136 000 meals in a year that we provide,” she continues. “Everything that we donate is perishable, so we’re looking at excess produce from a grocery store or excess baked goods from, say, a Starbucks, or something like that.”

The key to Leftovers’ success is ensuring they are aware of the specific programming of the many service agencies that provide food for those in need, so that they can give each the correct types and amounts of food.  It’s not meant to replace existing food banks and other food redistribution systems already in place, but rather to augment them and help them run more efficiently.

Leftovers has a pilot project in Edmonton right now. Juan is also talking to some individuals from Ottawa and Vancouver about starting similar projects in those cities. But because they are 100 percent volunteer-powered, she notes, it takes time to get everything started.

 

Juan will be discussing Leftovers on a panel at the upcoming Cultivating Connections event. She’s looking forward to meeting people in similar fields to see how they might work together to combat these huge issues of food waste and food insecurity. She hopes the event will also help progress the regulatory and governmental support that’s necessary to make any significant and long-lasting impact.

“We definitely need to work on the legislation and the regulatory framework so that we can actually get down to the deeper level and solve these issues where they need to be solved,” Juan says. “France and Germany have regulated that their grocery stores can’t throw away food; they have to donate it. How does Canada implement something like that? Do we start at the municipal level or do we start at the federal level? I’m not sure, but those are the types of things that we really want to dig deep into.”

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For more information on Leftovers, visit their website.

For more information and to register for Cultivating Connections, click here.

Tweet your food questions to #AskEFC and #Cultivate2017 or email them to info@edmontonfoodcouncil.org. Three Alberta mayors will be answering your questions at Let’s Talk Food, the free opening event of Cultivating Connections.

 

 

 

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