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Vancouver Food Bank concerned tax incentive for corporate donations could do more harm than good

About 70 per cent of food that comes to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank is donated by producers and retailers.

The National Zero Waste Council has come up with a tax incentive to encourage them to give even more, which would keep unwanted food out of the landfill.

“We go to FCM [Federation of Canadian Municipalities] and then to the federal government asking for a tax incentive for corporate donations of safe, healthy and edible food,” said Malcolm Brodie, chair of the National Zero Waste Council and the mayor of Richmond.

But the Greater Vancouver Food Bank said the proposal doesn’t actually specify that the food be healthy and that is a problem.

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“We did an audit here where we looked at the products that we received from two big box stores and 57 and 40 per cent were products of low or zero nutritional value,” Food Bank CEO Aart Schuurman Hess said.

That can prove to be a headache for the food bank, which is mandated to only distribute nutritious foods.

Not only does the unhealthy food use up valuable storage space, it takes 50,000 volunteer hours to weed out the empty calories and potentially unsafe food that is well past its expiration date.

“People were giving us open bags of chips that they just put a twist tie on and put it in the food bank,” volunteer Luciana Evangelista said.

Such items end up in the landfill, which costs the food bank money.

“We currently already have a waste bill of over $40,000 every year,” Schuurman Hess said.

Some are concerned that the proposed tax incentive as it is currently worded would result in even more undesirable food being dropped off at the food bank and then dumped in a landfill, which is exactly what the National Zero Waste Council is hoping to avoid.

Brodie said there is room for negotiation.

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“There would be a list of what is allowed to be given to them,” he said. “There would be some requirements. You can’t just give a bunch of garbage food and expect a tax receipt for that.”

-With files from Linda Aylesworth

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