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Sobeys and Second Harvest save surplus food from going to waste

May 26, 2022

Sobeys and Second Harvest continue to reduce food waste by donating surplus food to people in need.

With the climate in crisis-mode and pollution still on the rise, it’s refreshing to hear about sustainability success stories, particularly where curbing food waste is concerned.

“We have a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2025,” says Heidi Ivosevic from the Sobeys Sustainability Team. “And one of the ways we’re meeting our objective is by using the Second Harvest Food Rescue App to donate surplus food, and rolling out a streamlined Food Rescue program across all of the Sobeys Inc. grocery banners.”

Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization, specializing in saving food before it hits the landfill. “We coordinate the recovery and redistribution of unsold surplus perishable foods,” says Winston Rosser, Director of Food Procurement at Second Harvest. “We work with food businesses and donor partners across the supply chain to help stop the astonishing amount of avoidable food waste happening across Canada.”

According to Second Harvest research, 58% of all food produced in Canada goes to waste – in homes, stores, restaurants and cafeterias – 32% of which could be saved to feed the more than eight million people who go hungry every day. And it’s not just the wasted food that is a concern: All the water used to produce the food is also wasted, as is the energy it takes to process, manufacture, package, store and distribute the food. Landfills just keep getting bigger and bigger.

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We help stop the avoidable food waste happening across Canada.

One store at a time

Second Harvest built and launched its Food Rescue App in 2018, expanding the platform nationally at the beginning of the pandemic. Sobeys Inc. began successfully using the App in select stores soon after, with a rollout program that has now successfully launched and is fully operational in Sobeys grocery stores across the country, Safeway stores in Western Canada, and Thrifty Foods stores in British Columbia.

“Our community-banner stores are next,” Heidi says. “That will entail onboarding all of our Foodland locations in Ontario, our Foodland and participating Co-op locations in Atlantic Canada; and our IGA stores in Western Canada – hundreds of stores are going to be coming on board by April 2022. We’re in the home stretch.”

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At Sobeys, we have a responsibility to manage our waste and to donate surplus food.

Winston feels that Sobeys stores coast to coast have deep roots in their communities. “When you think of a food bank or a school or any sort of food-access organization that’s looking to find food, you know that Sobeys is going to be the hub of that community,” he says.

Sobeys statistics so far, to January 2022, add up to 4.2 million pounds of food donated to multiple community organizations through Second Harvest, providing more than four million meals – and this is just the beginning.

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In 2021, Second Harvest saved 41 million pounds of food from being wasted.

“I think it’s less intuitive for people in general to think about donating nutritious perishable products like produce, protein and dairy, so we work alongside Sobeys to provide that kind of guidance,” Winston says. “These are some of the hardest foods for low-income households to get – something we’re trying to make more accessible.”

In 2021, Second Harvest saved 41 million pounds of food from being wasted, giving it to more than 3,000 non-profit organizations across Canada, feeding more than four million people with rescued food. That’s about 110,000 meals a day. Thanks to generous volunteers, donors, farmers, retailers like Sobeys, manufacturers and distributors, this work keeps on preventing waste and helping those who are food insecure.

“At Sobeys, we have a responsibility to do what we can to manage our waste and donate that surplus food,” Heidi says. “Customers have noticed our efforts, and we hope that encourages them to reduce food waste at home, too.”

What you can do

In the past couple of years, Second Harvest has really begun to use their platform to address food waste and the amount of surplus that is going to waste. “I don’t think anyone likes wasting good food,” Winston says, “but I think there is some confusion about best-before dates. They are conservative dates of optimal freshness put on foods by the manufacturers. This is one cause of so much avoidable food waste.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle – and RESCUE

You can help by minimizing food waste in your own home. Sobeys has added a fourth “R” to reduce, reuse, recycle: Rescue. Join the #FoodRescue movement and visit the website for easy tips and tricks at your fingertips, like:

  • how to make nuts last longer
  • how to extend the life of cheese
  • how to freeze extra lemons
  • what to do with pickle brine
  • how to use leftovers

Rescue Food by curbing wasteful and unsustainable habits, buying only what you need and repurposing leftovers in creative ways. You can also volunteer with Second Harvest.

Let’s do OurPartᵀᴹ for future generations.

Follow along with Second Harvest on Facebook and Twitter, and visit secondharvest.ca today.