Food rescue to address hunger

The options are as numerous as the food that’s going to waste.

We all have seen the cost of food go up. Statistics Canada reported 11 percent higher grocery inflation in December 2022 than December 2021. You’ve probably already noticed that eggs are 17 percent more expensive than a year ago, and tomato prices increased 22 percent. Addressing hunger is more urgent than ever. 

In recent years, food rescue has emerged as a way to help with hunger. Food rescue is to gather edible food that would otherwise go to waste from places such as farms, produce markets, grocery stores, restaurants or dining facilities, and distributing it to local emergency food programs. The recovered food is edible, although often not sellable.

Here is an example of how it works in my hometown of Magna, Utah. I go to the website for my local food rescue, where they list volunteer opportunities by date and time. I reserve a slot based on my availability. If there is a specific time each week or each month that I have available, I can ‘adopt’ a regular assignment. Instructions are sent to me by email about the times, locations, pickup and drop off places and the contacts at each location. Pick up locations often include grocery stories, hospital cafeterias, restaurants, bakeries and wholesale fruit and produce vendors. Drop off locations can be homeless shelters, senior centers, domestic violence shelters, afterschool programs. Over the Christmas holidays, I completed an assignment by taking extra baked items from a local bakery to our community senior center. 

Crisis in the home 

A report released by the Toronto-based agency Second Harvest in 2019 reported that 58 percent of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted, and about a third of that wasted food could be “rescued.” Food rescue provides a significant opportunity to get food to where it is most needed without producing more food. 

Reducing food waste as part of food rescue can begin at home in simple ways. Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer before going to the store. Create a meal plan so you buy mostly things according to a plan. Save and eat leftovers safely. Store food appropriately. (Tomatoes and bananas can be stored on the counter and potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place.) Compost. Buy “ugly foods” (or, as the British call them “wonky foods”), misshaped or oddly shaped fruits or vegetables. Some companies deliver wonky foods by monthly subscription. You can also develop a relationship through a community-supported agriculture or farmers market to find some imperfect produce. 

Food rescue moves food to where it can be used. It moves food from grocery stores to a community centre or your local foodbank. It removes other food to farms where many animals can eat food scraps. It moves your scraps to community gardens for composting.  

How Do Food Rescue Organizations Help?

Organizations that rescue food also garden share, provide prepared meals from rescued food, provide education and tips on how to reduce food waste. Volunteers like myself are often involved by transporting, preparing or serving food. 

As a married (happily so, for the past 28 years) man, father of three, full-time counselor and active member of my church congregation, I sometimes wonder if I have any time to help. Food rescue is adaptable to the time I have. If I have an hour, I can help them at a community event educating others about the potential benefits of food rescue. If I have 20 minutes, I can complete a pick up/drop off assignment. If I have 2 minutes, I can donate to their organization online.

I participate in food rescue because it is an expression of the Christian virtue of prudence. It just makes good sense to rescue food that has already been harvested. Also, God has given my family and me so much, I cannot see another’s lack and not give. I food rescue out of gratitude. Last, but not least, it feels good to do good.

Where Can I Learn More? 

1.  Leftovers does food rescue in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Hinton. Download their app to search for volunteer opportunities. 

2. Squamish Helping Hands: Food, Shelter, Community. This organization works to combat homelessness through Under One Roof, a community centre with both supportive housing and food programs. It was developed in cooperation with the District of Squamish, B.C. Housing, Helping Hands, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the Food Bank.

3. If you do not live in these areas, then check out Food Banks Canada. 

4. Read a book on how to adopt food rescue in your own home: The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste, Lois Carlson Willand. An Almost Zero Waste Life: Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More, Megean Weldon.


  • Michael Shoemaker

    Michael is a freelance poet, writer and photographer. He lives in Magna, Utah with his wife, son and cat where they can look out on the Great Salt Lake every day. You can find his other creative works published in The Beckindale Poetry Journal, The Nightingale Poetry Journal, Utah Life Magazine and Salt Lake City Weekly.

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