Federal food rescue program will give fresh food to 87 local community groups

A new federal government surplus food rescue program, will give shipments of perishable food to 87 community groups in Waterloo region and Wellington County, according to Second Harvest, one of the groups helping run the program.

Earlier today, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $50-million would go toward redirecting surplus perishable food to vulnerable people during the pandemic.

“We waste and lose 58 per cent of all the food we produce. And then came COVID,” said Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest.

The program aims to reduce food waste during the pandemic while helping farmers recover costs of production, by buying what’s not being purchased right now by restaurants or other buyers along the supply chain.

The redistributed food will include potatoes, walleye, chicken, turkey, eggs, and other perishables, according to Bibeau’s announcement.

“Now we’re working really hard to move that food as quickly and efficiently and the right ways across Canada,” said Nikkel.

‘It’s critical’

The Seed, part of the Guelph Community Health Centre, has been running a food basket program throughout the pandemic. 

More than 2,000 people are receiving food each week and they’ve handed out over 24,000 baskets in total to people in need, according to Tom Armitage, a social enterprise development coordinator at The Seed.

Through the surplus food rescue program, they’ll receive vital staples to include in those baskets, helping the program continue, said Armitage.

“Anything that allows us to continue the length of the program and continue to offer the baskets to households, [our participants] are going to be super happy about that,” said Armitage.

“Right now there’s so much great food being produced in our communities that doesn’t have a market, because restaurants have been closed, markets have been closed. It would be just a shame if the food being produced locally, and it’s high quality stuff, doesn’t find a home,” said Armitage.

The food will be available as early as this week through a digital platform and app created by Second Harvest to connect with community groups about what they need, according to Nikkel.

“It will help hundreds of thousands of Canadians,” said Nikkel. “It’s critical.”

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