Vancouver company giving back to community with a hearty soup

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After testing and distributing hundreds of litres of soup, a local initiative is forging ahead with its first product that will not only feed those in need, it will also help people gain valuable employment skills.

Goodly Foods uses produce that isn’t deemed high quality enough for grocery store shelves. Instead of the produce being thrown away, the company turns it into something good.

Goodly Foods co-founder Yuri Fulmer said the produce is donated by supplier partners, including wholesalers, growers, re-packers and distributors, “folks who have tomatoes that are too round, not round enough, too red or not red enough.”

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The program has another huge benefit.

“The employees are generally people who have at least one barrier to employment so they may be living in poverty,” Fulmer said.

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“They may have had an injury in the workplace. They may have a substance abuse issue. It’s absolutely a win-win. Consumers get a fantastic soup. Organizations like the Food Bank receive food that they can distribute to people in need and folks here get meaningful employment that helps them get back on their feet.”

All of the proceeds go back into the project as its first product, a hearty tomato vegetable soup, starts to hit the shelves. For now, the soup will be distributed through soup kitchens and other agencies that feed people in need.

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Goodly Foods general manager Alexa Pitoulis has even bigger goals.

“We really have a dream of seeing this soup in public institutions, so schools, hospitals, seniors living facilities,” she said.

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“It’s a nutritious, healthy, beautifully-made soup that I think will have a lot of legs in a lot of places.”

Pitoulis added the issues of food waste, people needing jobs and supportive employment opportunities are not unique to Vancouver, “so we really see the potential of working across Canada and beyond to do similar models.”

Thursday’s launch was made possible in part because of the Walmart Foundation, which granted the Greater Vancouver Food Bank a $1-million investment grant to help grow the Goodly Foods initiative.