A Home for Rescued Food

June 13, 2024
full shelves.jpg

A Food Bank hamper with cereal, greens, oranges, and squash.

There is a lot of attention on the issue of food waste and food rescue in Canada. Yet many in Edmonton don’t know that food rescue in Canada started here, in 1981, with Edmonton’s Food Bank. The Food Bank was born from the realization of two things: hunger was affecting the lives of many and edible food was being wasted in the community. There was a desire to reconcile these realities and establish a channel to take surplus food from the food industry to help those facing food insecurity. From this, the Edmonton Gleaners Association, now known as Edmonton’s Food Bank, was created. The Food Bank has been rescuing surplus food and providing it to agencies and people in need ever since.

Currently, Edmonton’s Food Bank visits 110 different retail food donors each week to rescue surplus food. These locations include grocery stores, warehouses, food manufacturers, and distributors. The rescued food is edible, but considered no longer marketable for a variety of reasons: packaging changes, overstock, over- shipment, or damaged exterior packaging. This food includes everything from non-perishables to meat, dairy, frozen foods, and produce. In 2023 over 60% of the food that the Food Bank used was rescued food, equalling over 3.6 million kilograms of food. The equivalent of nearly 8 million meals!

Edmonton's Food Bank trucks parked in front of the Food Bank.

The Food Bank also rescues frozen prepared food from many of the large event facilities such as the Edmonton Convention Centre and Expo Centre. Everything is collected, transported, stored, and distributed according to Alberta Health Services guidelines.

Most of our fleet of nineteen vehicles is refrigerated meaning foods are kept at optimal temperatures for food safety. The Food Bank has large industrial freezers and coolers to store food safely until it is distributed. Distribution is done according to Alberta Health Services and Food Banks Canada guidelines ensuring that while some food is past its Best Before date it is still safe to consume. (For more information on Best Before dates see this post.)

Our ability to pick up and distribute food safely enables the Food Bank to function as a central food warehouse for local social service agencies, shelters, soup kitchens, and schools. Some of these agencies include Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre, Bent Arrow, and the Salvation Army. Each month, agency partners serve an average of 400,000 meals and snacks to those in need. The Food Bank also provides food to individuals and families in need. The channel put in place in 1981 to take surplus food from the food industry and use it to help our food insecure neighbours is still going strong.

If you want to know more about Edmonton’s Food Bank food rescue programs, contact us at 780.425.2133 or email siegfried@edmontonsfoodbank.com.