PEI Food Recovery Network uses app to connect donors and food programs

Organizers of the new PEI Food Recovery Network. describe themselves as “matchmakers” for Island businesses wishing to donate surplus food and organizations that provide food support programs.

They even created an app – much like a dating app – to connect donors and potential recipients.

The project is run by Second Harvest, which bills itself as Canada’s largest food rescue charity.

Operations program coordinator Emily Browning has reached out to local businesses that may have excess food in their operations.

“From warehouses, growers, farmers, to retail cafes, anywhere there is food that is wasted for whatever reason,” Browning said.

“We want to make sure we can save it and donate it and donate it to different agencies in Prince Edward Island that distribute food to those in need.”

There is an app

Browning said the app is an easy way to connect food donors with organizations offering food support programs.

“Basically, you say, I’m 15 pounds [6.8 kilograms] of cheese to give away for any reason. You set a time when an agency can pick it up. You press the post and then it notifies the agencies on the island within the one-mile radius they’ve set,” Browning said.

“If they have the capacity to pick it up during that window, they press the claim and they show up, and they take the food and distribute it to the customers they serve.”

Browning says on Prince Edward Island, so far the network is working with 22 food donors to support 26 agencies. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Browning said it was important that the donation process be simple for companies that want to participate.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about donating food. It’s sort of seen as a bit of a costly business, or it’s hard to find an agency. It takes time. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing,” Browning said.

“What we’re really aiming for is to make it easy to give.”

Browing said the app also makes it easier for recipients.

“They like it because it’s that simple. They get notified when there’s a donation. They know exactly what they can pick up. They know where to go. All the information is there.”

Browning says she hopes to tell more Island nonprofits how they can benefit from participating in the Food Recovery Network. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

According to Second Harvest Canada, nearly 60% of the food produced in Canada, or approximately 35.5 million metric tons, is lost and wasted each year.

And of that total, 32% — or 11.2 million metric tons of lost food — could be salvaged and shared with those in need.

It’s really sad to hear how much food is going to go to waste, it’s perfectly good, perfectly edible and should be distributed to communities—Emily Browning, second crop

Second Harvest said in Prince Edward Island the amount of food waste is more than 23 million kilograms each year.

“It’s intimidating. It’s really sad, because there are so many people who are affected by food insecurity,” Browning said.

“There’s price gouging on all fronts happening everywhere, and so it’s really sad to hear how much food is going to be wasted that is perfectly good, perfectly edible and should be distributed to communities.”

According to Second Harvest Canada, nearly 60% of the food produced in Canada, or 35.5 million metric tons, is wasted each year. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Extend the reach

So far on PEI, the Food Recovery Network has worked with 22 food donors to support 26 organizations, including the Community Fridge of Charlottetown.

“We got more than 6,000 books [2,722 kilograms] of food from their application. It has also helped us strengthen our relationships with other companies like Sobeys, for example,” said Community Fridge co-founder Samel Sunil.

“The app makes it easy for us because it’s always there, every day maybe we’ll get a notification from them. It’s always great to get it, and we can fill the fridge, and a lot of people use it, and it’s just really helping everyone in the community.”

It’s always very good to get it, and you can fill the fridge, and a lot of people use it—Samel Sunil, co-founder of Community Fridge

Community Fridge co-founder Samel Sunil says he has already received over 6,000 pounds of food through the app. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Charlottetown’s Riverview Country Market recently joined the PEI Food Recovery Network.

Director Trisha Viaene said the app makes it easy for the market to take the step towards donating its surplus produce, which until now has gone mainly to compost.

“Sometimes it’s like minor mistakes on our part when ordering, or sometimes the supplier accidentally sends too much stuff,” Viaene said.

“So it’s like, let’s get this food out to the people who need it and deserve it, especially fresh food and not something that’s just starting to go bad.”

Trisha Viaene says the app makes it easier for Riverview Country Market to donate. (Submitted by Trisha Viaene)

Reduction of greenhouse gases

The Food Recovery Network receives funding from the Government of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Challenge Fund, and Browning said reducing food waste is also linked to climate change.

“Food rescue is very strongly tied to reducing greenhouse gases. When food is wasted, it typically goes to landfill and landfills that emit greenhouse gases,” Browning said.

“By redirecting food waste back into the hands of people in our community, we also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Browning said that between its Jan. 13 launch and the end of February, the Food Recovery Network saved 60,455 kilograms of excess food.

She said that represents a reduction of 227,328 kilograms of greenhouse gases over that time.

Browning said Farm & Food Care PEI and the City of Charlottetown are also Food Recovery Network partners.

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