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There’s no ignoring the fact that food waste is a serious global issue, especially considering how many people around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The ways in which we deal with food waste are becoming increasingly urgent, and many of the existing methods have proved ineffective. Take a look at food banks, for instance. Grocery stores send leftover food to them to nourish those in need, but the management and distribution process has proved complicated, with supermarkets finding it difficult to accommodate individual food banks coming to them one by one. Now, Canada is demonstrating the solution.

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Food Banks of Quebec (FBC) has launched their province-wide Supermarket Recovery Program (SRP) as an answer to overly complicated distribution and management. The program has allowed over 600 grocery stores to give back more efficiently.

The first of its kind in Canada, SRP was launched a few years ago, and as of last year, the program had 177 grocery stores participating, and had collected about 5.5. million pounds of food. The program also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 2,000 metric tonnes.

This year, the program has kicked it up a notch by implementing a province-wide initiative, allowing 611 supermarkets to take part, that will collect an estimated 30.8 million pounds of food and lower greenhouse gas emissions by over 13,000 metric tonnes.

“The idea behind it is: ‘Hey, we’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out,’ ” explains Sam Watts of Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission, a group servicing people in need.“Let’s be recuperating what we can recuperate and let’s make sure we get it to people who need it.”

The SRP simplifies the process by gathering food from stores on a schedule, then taking it to a distribution center and delivering to food banks. The program gets food — fresh or frozen — to people who need it, quickly and safely.

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“The idea is that we will be able to do it quickly while the food is still fresh,” Watts added. “Where frozen food is required, it will maintain the cold chain of being frozen.”

“It really allows them to organize the donations in a much better way,” says Dominique Anglade, Quebec’s minister of economic development, innovation, and export trade.

Anglade calls the program a “win-win,” while Recyc-Quebec has offered to subsidize the program with $395,200.

Watts believes the program will be very useful for smaller food banks in Quebec, and hopes it will continue to receive funding from the Quebec government because of its positive economic impact. “We managed to take people and prevent them from falling into poverty, prevent them from falling into homelessness and, in turn, we get them to be productive citizens,” he said. “They go from being dependent to being people who are participating fully in society, who are paying taxes, who are actively involved in the workplace. To us, that’s a really good thing.”


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