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Second Harvest says ‘millions of pounds of food’ being wasted across Toronto

WATCH ABOVE: The food rescue organization is trying to expand in order to keep pace with a growing need. Peter Kim reports.

TORONTO – The food rescue organization, Second Harvest, estimates that likely “millions of pounds of food” is being thrown out by businesses and families – food which could feed hungry mouths across Toronto.

“We have over 50 organizations on our waiting list,” said Debra Lawson, the executive director of Second Harvest. “Last year we picked up over 7 million pounds of food.”

This food gets distributed to around 200 agencies across Toronto.

Produce is often discarded at supermarkets because it is not aesthetically appealing enough for consumers. In restaurants and at coffee shops, items that fail to sell are typically tossed even though they’re still edible.

It’s estimated that every year $27 billion dollars worth of food is wasted in Canada, according to a report from the food-and-beverage industry advocacy group Provision Coalition.

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Second Harvest is struggling to keep pace with demand – both for food pick up and food delivery – for a number of reasons.

Lawson says many businesses are unaware their service exists and are concerned about liability issues.

“There is no liability issue if a donor wants to give us food. The Good Samaritan Act is in place,” said Lawson. Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are injured or need assistance.

More importantly, Second Harvest also needs donations to grow their fleet of 7 trucks and 1 van. The volunteers and equipment serve as the backbone for operations.

In service of that goal, the organization has launched their “Hero Day” campaign at Salad King on Thursday.

“We really believe in what they’re doing. It’s actually a great synergy for us to be working together,” said owner Allan Liu.

Hot House Restaurant & Bar on Church and Front has been donating surplus food for 26 years. Their buffet offerings mean more is usually left over at the end of the day.

“It’s fresh, it’s great food, and we know that it goes to about 200 communities through Second Harvest,” said owner Elinor Laffey.

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Since its inception almost 30 years ago, Second Harvest has rescued 99 million pounds of surplus, fresh food that would have been destined for the landfill.