Food bank diverts a million pounds from landfill

Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, has reached – and exceeded – a major milestone by recovering more than a million pounds of healthy surplus food from Manitoba food businesses and redistributing it to schools, non-profits and community programs.  

“The food that we rescue is fresh, healthy and high quality but it’s unsold surplus which means it’s in danger of being sent to landfill if someone doesn’t intervene,” said Wendy Erlanger, Second Harvest’s head of operations for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the North.  

Organizations benefitting from the surplus food include many types of non-profits. Recently, Erlanger coordinated the redistribution of 220,000 pounds of hemp products donated by Manitoba Harvest, with Bison Transportation and WERI providing in-kind logistics and storage support. 

“Supporting our local community is very important to us,” said Casey Lopes, supply chain manager with Manitoba Harvest, a Canadian hemp food producer.

“Many people are facing incredible challenges these days and food insecurity should not be one of them.”  

“We believe in giving back to the community,” said Dennis Antony, vice-president of Projects at WERI.

“We had some space and we had some staff that we could lend to help out a bit. We feel we always get back much more than we give.” 

“During these recent COVID times, as much as ever, people need to support one another,” says Steve Zovki, senior vice-president of operations at Bison Transport, which donated space on five transport trucks to help move the rescued food, two of which delivered food outside of Winnipeg to the communities of Dauphin and Brandon.

“We hope this initiative has made the lives of those who benefitted from the food donation a little more positive.” 

Founded in Ontario in 1985, Second Harvest works with food businesses from farm to retail to redistribute surplus food; to date they have rescued 177 million pounds of food.

They began developing and piloting the Food Rescue App in 2018. The app directly connects food business that have unsold surplus with non-profits in their communities that provide food to individuals and families. When COVID-19 hit, Second Harvest rapidly expanded the app across Canada to give non-profits like meal programs, shelters and food banks access to emergency food relief for their communities.  

Second Harvest’s research shows that, in Canada, nearly 60 percent of food produced is lost or wasted every year, including 11.2 million tonnes of potentially rescuable, edible food that is also lost to landfill. When food ends up in landfill, it generates 56.5 million tonnes of CO2e emissions every year.  

Says Erlanger, “That’s the beauty of the Second Harvest food rescue app: it helps build an engaged, compassionate, powerful community of people who want to make sure healthy food always gets to families, not landfills.”