A Chilliwack Food Bank worker unpacks a box of fresh strawberries that was among the six pallets of boxed produce, dairy, baked goods and more that had just arrived from Save-On-Foods. (Jennifer Feinberg/The Progress)

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

Three-month pilot project in Chilliwack saw food waste redirected to make an estimated 250,000 meals

The idea is to curb food waste down to nothing — and it’s working.

In the past four months, Chilliwack has been the pilot site for a food-waste diversion project that’s being called a “game-changer.”

Save-On-Foods joined forces with Food Banks BC, FoodMesh, Loop Resource, and charities like Chilliwack Salvation Army to reach the goal of “zero surplus and potentially wasted food” ending up in the waste stream.

A lot has been accomplished.

“Every item they can’t use, we are getting it,” said Don Armstrong, coordinator of the Chilliwack Salvation Army Food Bank, picking up some fresh asparagus and packages of sushi received from Save-On.

READ MORE: University students Dumpster dive to shed light on food waste

Black Press Media stopped by the food bank last week to see how the pilot project was working, as Sally Ann volunteers and staff combed through six pallets of boxed produce, dairy, and baked goods from Save-On-Foods.

Out of a week’s worth of food, they maybe had one garbage bag full they couldn’t put to use.

“The program works fantastic,” said Armstrong, adding they can use about 90 per cent of what they have been getting, and farmers will come by every day to pick up what’s left to feed their livestock.

“People are coming in and they’re loving the stuff that we are able to give them,” said Armstrong. “We’re giving them apples, we’re giving them oranges, bananas, sandwiches, deli meats, roasts, and turkeys.”

The food-waste diversion is now operational in more than half of the 170 Save-On-Foods stores across the province, including all three in Chilliwack, where the pilot has been redirecting food in a consistent, safe, and measurable way.

The grocery chain spent the past year trying to surpass its company-wide goal to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2025.

“We have been composting perishable waste where possible for a number of years, but we knew we could do better,” said Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods, in a release.

The idea is to eventually see the initiative rolled out in all Save-On stores across Western Canada.

“With close to 1.5 million metric tonnes valued at close to $6.4 billion dollars of surplus edible food wasted each year in B.C. and close to 100,000 individuals struggling to put food on the table, perishable food recovery with our partner, Save-On-Foods, has been a true game-changer,” said Laura Lansink, executive director of Food Banks BC.

So where is it all heading?

“What we’re hoping is that other grocery stores will see what Save-On-Foods is doing, and get on board, so we can get all this food out of the landfills,” Armstrong said.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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