Foodsharing Ottawa reduces local food waste by feeding the community – Apartment613
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or grocery store, you know how much food is thrown away every day. In fact, if food waste were its own country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
With rising food prices, food insecurity, and many people in our community going without basic nutrition, there has to be a better solution. Ottawa Food Share works tirelessly to close this gap. This all-volunteer-run organization works with local businesses and grocery stores to organize the pickup and drop-off of extra food for charities and people in need. Foodsharing takes care of all the logistics to facilitate corporate donations. We had the pleasure of speaking with Brandie Lekovic, the Chair of the Board, to learn more about the invaluable work of the organization.
Lekovic has been involved with the organization from the start, volunteering since the first pickup in 2015. Foodsharing was found by Carolyn Ross, a recent graduate from Germany who came to Canada and found none of the same here that she had at home. In Germany, there was a community refrigerator accessible to all students, as well as long-standing programs to reduce food waste.
Ross created a website and started chatting with anyone who would listen.
“When she was approaching the companies, the logistics were complicated and it wasn’t necessarily a positive response – we had a very difficult start,” Lekovic explains during a Zoom call. “One of our first pickups was Kardish. I pulled up to the store in Westboro and the delivery truck was there. It was boxes and boxes of food; it broke the hearts of the delivery people to throw that that wasn’t salable. Until then, I hadn’t realized what was being thrown away and how much, from jars of lemonade to cans of tomatoes and French fries,” says Lekovic. thought: A) it was delicious; B) my family could use it; C) there is a real family in need out there somewhere.
During the pandemic, the organization tripled in size and now has 60 dedicated volunteers saving more than 3,000 pounds of food per month across 16 different businesses. “Throughout COVID, we’ve found ourselves with a lot more personal messages from people who don’t have food. Unfortunately, we’re not an emergency stop, so we’ve created a ‘Share it, don’t throw it “on Facebook to get the food back,” says Lekovic.
Rescue drivers choose where to distribute the food. “We’ve suggested locations, but they can take it wherever they want,” says Lekovic. “For example, The Ottawa Mission is a common drop-off location as it is open 24/7.” Other food drop-off locations include Sadaqa Food Bank, Caldwell Family Centre, Rideau Rockcliffe Community Resources, Shepherds of Hope and many more.
On the business side, Foodsharing collects excess food from Costco on Merivale, COBS Bread, McKeens Metro, Mamie Clafoutis, the Lord Elgin Hotel and more. While the current list includes 16 local businesses and hotels, there is plenty of room for improvement based on the number of food businesses in Ottawa. And it’s up to the community to organize itself, so Foodsharing can step in and take care of the logistics.
“We are always looking for more volunteers and people to educate about food waste,” says Lekovic. “Once people become aware of what is being thrown away, we suggest approaching the producer or manager of the restaurant or grocery store and saying, ‘I just wonder what you do with what’s not isn’t sold at the end of the day? Because there’s a place called Foodsharing that can send volunteers and redistribute it and make your life easier. We step in as volunteers to take care of the logistics parts It shows businesses that the community cares.
“We pick up everything suitable for human consumption,” says Lekovic. “If a company throws away a bag of apples, it’s because of a rotten apple. We collect the whole bag, clean it and reuse it. Each organization has specific requirements, so we coordinate as needed. Because Lekovic specifically mentioned “human consumption”, I ask if Foodsharing works with other dietary needs as well.
“We also donate to save animals and farms. For example, a pet store had a lot of bird food that couldn’t be sold, so we donated it to a bird sanctuary. We also do a lot of composting work that cannot be redistributed. Or reusing food – we had bruised pears that couldn’t be offered, so we cut off the bad bits, made ginger pear jam and shared that instead!” says Lekovic.
“Our goal is to reduce the amount of food that goes out of landfills, but our name is Foodsharing because we want it to be used well and nourish our community. We won’t completely solve food insecurity, but it helps in a bind or with a community organization.
Learn more about Foodsharing on their website, where you can sign up to volunteer or donate food.