Food recovery and food waste in Ottawa

Excess food and food waste has become an important issue for Canadians. Recovering excess food and preventing food waste is also an important issue for the Ottawa Food Bank as it provides an excellent source of nutritious and safe food that helps to meet the need in the community and prevents surplus food from being wasted.

For over 15 years, the Ottawa Food Bank has partnered with farms, farmers markets, grocery retailers, restaurants, food service providers, and other businesses to recover perishable and non-perishable food.  Our food recovery program helps to ensure families and individuals struggling with hunger receive enough to eat. This important source of food accounts for 13 per cent of the total food donated to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Fresh Harvest and City Harvest are the Ottawa Food Bank’s city-wide perishable food recovery programs. The Ottawa Food Bank’s Fresh Harvest truck stops at local grocery stores and picks up donations of fresh meat, produce, bakery, and deli goods. The food is then delivered the same day to one of our front line partners, typically a meal program or emergency housing shelter.

The City Harvest program focuses on picking up prepared meals and food items from local restaurants, retirement homes, and food service providers. These items are also delivered the same day to a meal program.

The Ottawa Food Bank also works with local farmers and farmers’ markets to glean and collect produce that would otherwise have been disposed of.

The Ottawa Food Bank’s food recovery programs provide an excellent source of fresh, nutritious food with the help of our community partners while reducing food waste in our city. Last year, 656,390 pounds of recovered food was collected and distributed throughout Ottawa.

Our organization’s primary focus is providing quality and nutritious food. The Ottawa Food Bank and its member agencies work to ensure that all food distributed in the community meets or exceeds established safety and quality standards set by the CFIA and Food Banks Canada.

We are very grateful to all our donors for their gift of food, money, or time. Without the incredible contributions from our community, it simply would not be possible to feed the over 41,500 people who turn to a food bank every month.


4 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I currently work at Loblaws. I notice that we waste SOOO much food. The good thing is that it all goes to a bin which is taken to pig farms as pig food. Most of these bins are filled with peels, cores, seeds, and rotten produce all of which we cannot eat. But we also throw out perfectly edible food, simply because of a small scratch or something of the sort. Just yesterday I saw someone throw out a potato because it had a bruise the size of my fingertip.
    I was wondering if it would be possible for you to reach out to Loblaws here in Ottawa, and see if you can find some sort of partnership where foods which are deemed “unsellable” such as slightly bruised or scratched produce and “expired” goods can be put to good use to feed those in need. Would something like this be possible? I’d love to help in any way if I can.

    1. Hi there Andy,
      Thank you for reaching out and thank you for your concern.
      We currently do a significant amount of food recovery with grocery stores – Loblaws included. In 2018 we received over 2,100,000 pounds of recovered/donated goods from grocery stores – which works out to well over $5million worth of food. Over half of that was fresh food, including produce, dairy, meat, and bread.

      There is a limit we can take, as we want to ensure we only receive quality items, as well we can’t take more than we can safely store to ensure proper and healthy keeping and maintaining the cold chain.

  2. Hi ! I am a teacher in the OCDSB. I have changed my language program this year to involve a lot of environmental issues.

    The start of our year, we are looking at food waste. We are reading articles, watching videos, and discovering ways to reduce food waste in our own homes and in the community.

    We are going to watch a video soon of a guy who travelled the USA and dumpster dove behind grocery stores. The amount of food he grabbed was phenomenal. He mentioned that grocery stores throw out so much food, and all they have to do is agree to set it aside instead of garbaging it in order to save this food.

    This was amazing to read that you do this. I have a few questions.

    Would you be able to provide a list of grocery stores that currently don’t take part so we could contact and ask if they would?

    Are you at capacity for the amount of food that you recover? Or can you always expand your operation?

    Where specifically is the recovered food used?

    Is there anyone from your organization who could do an online presentation online for students? Explain what you do, how many people you help, how the process works, etc?

    Thank you for taking the time to reply, it is much appreciated!
    An email would be even better.
    I’m excited to get students understanding some of the efforts that communities put forth in the battle against climate change. 🙂

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Thank you for reaching out to us and for the interest in our Food Recovery Program.
      A member of our team will be in contact with your shortly to answer your questions and provide you with additional information.

      We wish you and your students all the best this school year and look forward to speaking!

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