A local group of volunteers is fighting to keep good food out of the garbage and help it into the mouths of the hungry.
The Leftovers Foundation started in Calgary, but in the last year it’s been gaining traction in Edmonton, thanks to a group of young leaders in the city.
“Leftovers is essentially about reducing food waste,” said Kady Hobbins, communications director with the foundation.
“We do that by being a link between vendors — a cafe, grocery store, hotel, restaurant and a service agency.”
Hobbins is part of the Global Shapers, a group of entrepreneurial Edmontonians between the ages of 20 and 30 that want to help improve the city.
With Leftovers, volunteers sign up online to pick up donated food and drop it off where it’s needed.
“COBS Bread is one of our providers, we collect a lot of bread from them,” Hobbins said.
“Blush Lane gives us a lot of produce and fresh food. We also have a few cafes that will give us fresh soup and sandwiches that they made that day.”
Right now, volunteers with Leftovers are preparing for their biggest single collection — hundreds of pounds of food from Edmonton’s biggest summer festival.
“We’ve actually just taken on a really cool new project with K-Days,” Hobbins explained.
“We partnered with 32 vendors at K-Days and will be rescuing their food after the festival and taking it to agencies in need.”
The group is looking for volunteers with a vehicle to help transport the food. You can sign up online.
Leftovers rescued more than 2,800 lbs. of food at the Calgary Stampede.
Blush Lane organic market on Whyte Avenue routinely donates to the local Food Bank, but it joined forces with Leftovers when the organization set up in Edmonton to collect food on the weekend — a time when few others pick it up.
The market donates lots of fresh produce.
“Through the process of shipping and travelling there’s always some produce that comes through a little bit damaged,” said general manager Nathan Rothgeb.
“Not perfectly beautiful for sale at full price but totally acceptable to be consumed.”
He said the philosophy behind the organic market supports reducing food waste and giving back.
“It’s the right thing to do, right? If we have products that we can’t sell, but are still edible, as opposed to sending them towards the landfill, it completely resonates with all of us to be donating those products.”
Hope Mission is one of the agencies that benefits from the donations.
“Everyone here is very grateful for what they do. They feed so many people,” said client Edward Lowe, as he ate a donated dinner. “It’s good, it’s very good. Pasta, potato salad, ice cream.”
Staff, too, appreciate the support.
“To be able to have — not just food, but healthy food that’s going to be able to replenish some of the nutrients that our guests really need is important to us,” Hope Mission spokesperson Robin Padanyi explained.
The donations are needed, especially with the sheer number of people the shelter is supporting.
“Every day at Hope Mission we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and that’s about 1,000 meals every single day,” plus another 1,200 bagged meals for those who are unable to make it to the agency, Padanyi said.
Food is also dropped at three buildings where Youth Empowerment and Social Services (YESS) operates its programs.
“It means the world to us,” said Margo Long, YESS associate executive director. “They bring us bread from COBS, fruit, a number of different items — usually a couple times a week.”
YESS relies entirely on donations to feed its teens. Without them, it couldn’t provide meals.
“They wouldn’t be eating, or they would be looking to get what they could from pan-handling,” Long said.
Six months after it started up in Edmonton, Leftovers has been rescuing 1,000 lbs. of food per week before it hits the garbage pile.