Until Lourdes Juan and a family member packed a vehicle full of day-old bread from a bakery, she never realized food waste was such a big issue.
“My cousin and I saw how much food was going to go to waste if we weren’t there to rescue it,” Juan told Global News.
It’s when and how the Leftovers Foundation began its work.
Juan founded the non-profit group, which rescues perishable food from stores and restaurants — things food banks often can’t handle.
Every week in Alberta, 1,814 kilograms (4,000 lbs) of produce, day-old bread, pastries and prepared meals is saved.
“Food that is a bit spotted, is close to expiry, but not yet expired — so food that is destined for the landfill, we come in and rescue that,” Juan said.
The latest estimates in 2014 suggest $31 billion of perfectly good food is going to waste every year in Canada.
Alison Gilroy with Calgary’s Blush Lane Organic Market says the game change with Leftovers is that it’s easier to donate food than throw it away.
“They take that worry away from you, so it’s all done by volunteers. They pick it up, they know where to bring it for the people that need it that particular day,” Gilroy said.
Two-hundred volunteers in Calgary and Edmonton pick up food from about 55 businesses, seven days a week.
Volunteer Anita Quach says they donate their vehicles and gas.
If they don’t have their own wheels, the organization has partnered with Uber, which provides free transportation for volunteers on a Leftovers pick up and drop off.
“It takes about 20 minutes out of my day, and again, you’re seeing that reward when you drop that food off,” Quach said.
The food is distributed to nearly 40 groups right now.
Karen Lamola from the Women’s Centre of Calgary says their clients are thrilled when the Leftovers donation for the week comes in.
“The cost of food is increasing year by year. Often times with the economic downturn, it’s having to make choices and priorities about what’s important to them,” Lamola said.
“Often nutritious food goes out the window when you’re making your priorities on a limited budget.”
Juan wants to expand the program to other Canadian cities, inspired by the volunteers who make it all possible.
“Every volunteer, everyone that’s passionate about this project is a hero.”