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Food to go: Fresh food donations bring more meaningful meals to Canadian families

April 21, 2021

By routing surplus food to the people who need it most, Sobeys and Second Harvest are closing the gap on food insecurity.

“Nobody likes to throw food away if it’s still consumable – particularly if you know somebody can use it.” Fred Kriegl, store manager at Sobeys Pembina Extra in Winnipeg, knows a few of those people, all thanks to a new partnership between Sobeys and Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization.

Food rescue pilot program

With the Second Harvest Food Rescue App, Fred’s store diverts food surplus to local charities who then support families in need with fresh, healthy food. With one in seven Canadian families struggling with food insecurity, effective solutions are critical.

“We have food items that are consumable but no longer able to be sold in the store,” says Fred, who has been a store manager for almost 25 years. “We provide information on what we have available to Second Harvest and they match it up with a community group that needs it.”

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Nobody wants to see anybody go hungry.  

Fresh food donation picks up the pace

“We were working with Harvest Manitoba prior to the launch of this program,” Fred says. “They would check with us periodically and then come and get whatever we had available. Now, that’s more structured. They’re here a couple of times a week and others have joined in, including Living Word Temple and Brooklands Daycare Centre.”

At Sobeys Pembina Extra, the turnaround is very quick, because most of the food items are perishable. “If I send a note in the morning, the food is picked up later that day,” Fred says. His store was one of 16 in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia that participated in the pilot stage of the Food Rescue App program. The results in all three provinces were very significant, with more than 94,000 meals donated to 30+ community organizations.

Reducing food waste

By side-stepping the landfill, this initiative will help Sobeys eventually rescue an estimated 30 million pounds of food every year, averting approximately 41 million kilograms of greenhouse gas GHG emissions – the equivalent of taking more than 8,600 cars off the road. This is a significant step towards achieving their goal to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2025.

Food rescue program delivers more meaningful meals

One of the truly rewarding things about the food rescue is that it’s fresh food going to the community groups instead of non-perishable donations they normally get.

“We’ve been working with a church group, and the pastor was in here recently,” Fred says. “One of the comments he made was that many of the families he serves never have fresh meat or seafood. The fact that they could enjoy fresh salmon instead of eating it from a tin was really meaningful.” Access to both quality canned and fresh ingredients returns more choice to mealtime.

Fred says that the community groups and the store staff are thrilled at the results of this Second Harvest partnership. “When you see people in need, particularly from a food perspective, you’re instinctively going to do what you can to help out. Nobody wants to see anybody go hungry.”

By Doug Wallace

Groceries on table and inside Second Harvest Food Rescue cooler bag