Food Rescue launched in B.C. Tuesday, June 11 to connect businesses to charities and reduce food waste. (Food Rescue)

‘eHarmony of food’: Website matches up businesses and charities to reduce waste

Schools, shelters, food banks can get healthy, fresh food from shops, farms, retailers

The CEO of a company that helps coordinate food donations hoping to inspire a more thoughtful conversation about food in B.C.

Food Rescue is the online do-it-yourself arm of Second Harvest, an organization that trucks food from organizations who have too much to those who have too little

Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, said Food Rescue is the “eHarmony of food,” meant to allow businesses like restaurants, grocery stores and farms to connect directly with shelters, schools and foodbanks.

“Any local food business with some surplus can just post it on our website, and it will send out an alert to local social services or mission-based organizations and they just capture it and go pick it up,” Nikkel said by phone to Black Press Media.

Food Rescue launched 34 years ago in Ontario with the help of a donation from Loblaws, but just opened its doors in B.C. Tuesday.

Nikkel said that unlike traditional food donations, there’s not many cans of vegetables or unwanted flavours of Pop Tarts on their website.

“Most of what we collect is perishable,” she said.

“We tell everybody to say no; if the food is not appropriate to what you need, don’t take it.”

Although it only launched in B.C. Monday, Nikkel said 26 retailers and one farm have already signed up to donate food.

Nikkel said by providing healthy foods to non-profits and school lunch programs, it begins to take the stigma out of being in need.

“It does everything for their dignity,” she said.

It’s hard to gauge how many people are in need of food in Canada because food keeps many from admitting they are food insecure and in turn, qualifying for need-based programs.

Nikkel is passionate about the cause because she was once a low-income parents trying to raise three kids.

“I ran a food nutrition program in their school and the beauty of those was they’re universal. Rich or poor, every child accesses it,” she said.

“So you don’t have to say ‘I’m the poor kid.’”

Nikkel is hopeful that by making food donations easy, businesses will turn to organizations like Food Rescue instead of just throwing food away.

The organization says nearly 60 per cent of all food in Canada is wasted, hurting the environment.

“It goes into landfills, it creates methane gas, methane gas contributes significantly to climate change,” Nikkel said.

“Our [temperature] has increased by 1.5 per cent since 1947.”

ALSO READ: Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

ALSO READ: No-waste grocery stores not a garbage idea to help tackle food waste

Although the Food Rescue website includes tips on how to avoid food waste at home, Nikkel said it’s largely businesses that are to blame.

“I hate pointing to consumers as the problem because that’s not it,” she said.

“We have a food systems problem.”

For at home food waste, Nikkel encourages people to shop only for what they need and to get wise to expiration dates, which are often more about liability for the business than food safety.

Only five food products have official expiration dates in Canada, Nikkel said: baby food, meal replacement shakes, protein bars and two prescription-only items.

To learn about how to donate or receive food, visit www.foodrescue.ca.

ALSO READ: ‘Game-changing’ program to combat food waste to expand across B.C.

ALSO READ: B.C. university students dumpster dive to shed light on food waste


@katslepian

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