Edmonton non-profit distributes leftover food from businesses to agencies in need

An Alberta non-profit that focuses on collecting excess food from local restaurants to give to those in need has come to Edmonton. The man who started the local chapter hopes to expand the program further.

Originally started in Calgary, Leftovers is now expanding to Edmonton in an official capacity

Canadians waste $31 billion in food every year, according to a 2014 report.

An Alberta non-profit that focuses on collecting excess food from local restaurants to give it to those in need has come to Edmonton.

The man who started the local chapter hopes to expand the program further.

Daniel Huber is the community lead of Leftovers Edmonton, which dispatches volunteers to pick up food that would otherwise go to the landfill and deliver it to organizations that need it.

"Anything that they have excess of — that might be donations, over-orders, or simply fruits and vegetables with blemishes on them — we pick that up and we deliver it to a service agency," Huber told CBC's Radio Active.

Daniel Huber runs Leftovers Edmonton, a new non-profit based off its sister non-profit in Calgary that picks up otherwise-wasted food from participating businesses and distributes it to people in need. 5:49

"It's a lot of work, but it's a very simple process."

Huber is piggybacking off Leftovers Calgary, an initiative started by Lourdes Juan in 2012.

"They rescued just over 200,000 pounds of food last year from being diverted to landfills and garbage," Huber said.

Juan had some volunteers in Edmonton. But Huber said with him leading the way locally he wants to expand the initiative's reach in the city.

"They kind of gave me the whole project in a box," he said.

He hopes Leftovers Edmonton can be a little bit more than a food collection and distribution service.

$31B in annual food waste

According to a 2014 report on Canada's food waste by Value Chain International, Canada wastes $31 billion worth of food per year, up from $27 billion in 2010.

Of that annual food waste, 47 per cent is from Canadian households. Though Leftovers helps reduce food waste in businesses, it doesn't do much to address household food waste.

Huber hopes to change that.

"My mandate is to expand on [the program]," he said. "It's not just going to be about picking up food that would otherwise be thrown away."

Daniel Huber is the community and culinary lead of Edmonton's chapter of Leftovers. (rescuefood.ca)

He's hoping to organize community engagement programs to teach marginalized people in low-income households how to use the food when they get it. He wants those programs to expand to eventually include all Edmontonians who want to learn how to use more of the food they buy.

There seems to be an appetite for this type of programming and effort to reduce food waste. In a recent event to increase his volunteer base, Huber tripled his volunteer numbers from 40 to 120.

He said people of all ages and from all backgrounds came out to support Leftovers Edmonton.

"It was really amazing to see Edmonton step up and chip in," Huber said.

The volunteer commitment can be as much or as little as the person wants, and Huber said they're looking for more people willing to help out. Find out more information on how to help out here.