The Airdrie Food Bank has announced a partnership with a Calgary-based food rescue organization in the hopes of alleviating food insecurity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has disrupted not only the livelihoods and income of many people, but it has disrupted the usual flow between supply and demand,” said Jane Miller, Airdrie coordinator for the Leftovers Foundation.
“Seniors and others considered at-risk have not been able to shop as much as usual; students were isolated from school meals; volunteer services were impacted, and many businesses were closed, resulting in fewer donors and reduced community support,” she added.
The Leftovers Foundation began in Calgary in 2012 as an effort to rescue and redirect usable food that businesses would otherwise discard. The organization’s mission is to reduce food waste and increase food access by filling any gaps outside existing arrangements between local food donors and service agencies such as food banks.
This is accomplished with the aid of an app called Leftovers Rescue Food App, which connects volunteers who pick-up usable food from local vendors and deliver it to service agencies that can redistribute the food. According to Miller, volunteering with the aid of the app was how she got started with the Leftovers Foundation last year.
“I wanted to volunteer somewhere during COVID lockdown, but so many agencies had to stop admitting new volunteers,” Miller said. “I found Leftovers, and it probably took me all of five minutes to download the app and sign up for my first routes.
“It was safe and enjoyable, but I kept thinking that it would be awesome if I could be doing this in Airdrie.”
Miller said that she is hoping the partnership between the Leftovers Foundation and the Airdrie Food Bank will increase awareness of food waste and insecurity, as that awareness is key to accomplishing both organizations’ common goals.
Of the partnership, Miller said the goal is “to be one of the creative solutions that reduces the amount of usable food getting discarded, while reducing the number of people going to bed hungry.”
According to Christine Taylor, events, marketing and communications manager for the Airdrie Food Bank, food insecurity is at an all-time high.
“I can tell you that for 2020, our hampers were up 25 per cent and our first-time users were up 95 per cent,” she said.
“That’s people that have never had to access the food bank before, (and) a lot of those people that did have to access were professionals. It wasn’t just what people think of – the type of person that would go to a food bank – it was all different types of people in all different kinds of employment.”
Taylor said that she is hoping to see all Airdrie businesses support the program with the Leftovers Foundation, as it’s something that will support the community and local business.
“It’s disheartening to think that there are businesses that throw away perfectly good food just because they don’t know what else to do with it,” Taylor said.
“If you signed up to agree to do [this program], it’s a really good thing to be able to show your community that you support food recovery in our community.”
Taylor said another way to support food recovery in Airdrie is to volunteer to redistribute food with the app. She added that while a lot of older volunteers at the Airdrie Food Bank have had to reduce their volunteering efforts due to concerns over their safety during the pandemic, using the app to volunteer is a safe and easy way to help out.
“A lot of people who volunteer, they do it because they want to help, but it also gives them something,” Taylor said.
“[It] gives them purpose. Volunteering is more than just helping the organization – there’s a lot of amazing benefits to it.”The Leftovers Foundation is looking to partner with both volunteers and food vendors who are willing to donate usable food, according to Miller. Anyone interested in volunteering with the Leftover Foundation can download the app, or check out the website at rescuefood.ca