March 10, 2017 7:04 pm
Updated: March 13, 2017 9:57 am

Quebec grocery stores in province-wide program to send unused produce to food banks

Global News videojournalist Phil Carpenter heads to a grocery store to find out more about what made them decide to start giving excess produce to food banks in need.

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Supermarkets across Quebec will now be giving their leftover produce to food banks in need.

Food Banks of Quebec (FBQ) announced the launch of the province-wide Supermarket Recovery Program (SRP) Friday, which the organization says is the first of its kind in Canada.

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The program was first established as a pilot project around Montreal and Quebec City in October 2013, as a way to bring unsold meat products to food banks.

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“It really allows them to organize the donations in a much better way,” said Dominique Anglade, Quebec’s minister of economic development, innovation and export trade.

“The money will structure the whole chain in order for the food to be distributed better than it was in the past.”

Anglade considers the program a “win-win” situation and Recyc-Quebec has offered to subsidize the program with $395,200.

Rather than sending unsold, edible food products to landfills – causing detrimental effects to the environment and wasting millions of dollars – the food will go to families living in poverty.

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The original pilot project had 177 participating supermarkets, raising 2.5 million kilograms of food worth almost $20 million.

As a result, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by over 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

RELATED: Food waste skyrockets as Canadians go hungry 

The pilot project has helped solve one of the most difficult problems of running a food bank: distribution and management.

“Supermarkets couldn’t accommodate individual food banks coming to them one by one by one,” said Sam Watts, executive director of the Welcome Hall Mission.

The SRP acts as the middle-man between supermarkets and food banks by managing distribution, storage and transportation.

READ MORE: Sam Watts is Welcome Hall Mission’s new CEO

Food is collected from stores on a scheduled basis, taken to a central distribution point and then brought to food banks.

“The idea is that we will be able to do it quickly while the food is still fresh,” Watts added.

“Where frozen food is required, it will maintain the cold chain of being frozen.”

That proof of concept was enough for Food Banks of Quebec to roll it out for the whole province.

The province-wide program

  • 611 participating grocery stores
  • 14 million kilograms of food per year
  • 13,000 tonnes of CO2 emission reduction per year

Watts explained the program will be extremely beneficial to smaller food banks throughout Quebec.

“We’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out,” he said.

“Let’s recuperate what we can recuperate and let’s make sure that we get it to people who need it.”

Welcome Hall Mission officials said they saw a spike of users since the organization joined the pilot project in 2013, making it one of the few food banks in the city to provide fresh meat.

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Watts hopes the Quebec government will continue to help fund the project to provide a positive economic impact in the province.

“We managed to take people and prevent them from falling into poverty, prevent them from falling into homelessness and, in turn, we get them to be productive citizens,” he told Global News.

“They go from being dependent to being people who are participating fully in society, who are paying taxes, who are actively involved in the workplace. To us, that’s a really good thing.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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