Found Nova Scotia feeds the hungry with forgotten fruit and vegetables

A growing eco-conscious enterprise is gleaning leftover fruits and vegetable from crops, farmers' markets and home gardens to donate to food banks and shelters.

Volunteers plucked about 835 kilograms of produce as of late September

Laurel Schut, left, and Lindsay Clowes are shown with apples picked Sunday in Tantallon, N.S. They founded a group that collects unharvested, leftover food and gives it to the needy. (Adina Bresge/The Canadian Press)

Volunteers spent this weekend trudging along coastal areas of St. Margarets Bay, picking apples that would have gone to waste and bringing them to the needy instead.

They are part of the Found Nova Scotia movement, a growing "eco-conscious" enterprise that gleans leftover fruits and vegetables from crops, farmers' markets and home gardens and donates most of their bounty to food banks and shelters.

Laurel Schut and Lindsay Clowes launched the initiative this spring after earning their master's degrees in environmental studies at Dalhousie University. They have a a mission to reduce food waste and educate others about the journey from farm to plate.

Getting food to people who need it

"[We're] teaching people about agriculture, but at the same time, getting all this food to people who need it," Clowes says. "They can understand where their food is coming from ... and learn how to reduce food waste in their own homes."

Schut estimates volunteers gathered around 90 kilograms of apples Sunday, adding to the roughly 835 kilograms of produce collected as of late September.

Mike Lancaster, a co-ordinator with the St. Margarets Bay Stewardship Association, says the trees haven't been formally harvested since 2008 and he's glad to see the apples consumed as nourishment rather than rotting on the ground.

$31 billion worth food wasted annually

Found Nova Scotia donates about 86 per cent of its yield to Feed Nova Scotia, which distributes the produce to community groups across the province. A slim share of the pickings are sold to local restaurants to cover the organization's costs of operation. Produce that is too spoiled to eat is turned into preserves that Clowes and Schut eventually hope to sell.

According to consulting firm Value Chain Management International, Canadians waste $31 billion worth of food each year. Meanwhile, Food Banks Canada says nearly one in eight families struggled to put food on the table last year.

Found Nova Scotia draws upon three sources of untapped produce: the chunk of harvests that are left behind each season, fruits and vegetables that go unsold as farmers' markets close for the day and unattended plants in residents' backyards, Schut said.