Syrian newcomers reducing food waste with tasty new venture

Three young Syrian refugees have teamed up with the woman who helped them learn English in a new social enterprise.

'We are 3 boys from Syria who came to Canada and are upcycling food from food bank'

From left to right are the three Syrian refugees behind Piece of the East: Ahmad Alhraki, Rafaat Harb and Alaa Alhraki. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Three Syrian newcomers have launched a new business taking fresh produce destined for the compost bin and turning it into sweet treats bound for the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market.

The men were inspired after taking an English language program that included a community work component.

They ended up helping sort food at the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank and were surprised by the amount of fruit going bad and being thrown out before someone could enjoy it. For example, if a fruit has started to rot, it can't be given to a food bank client — but the good part of the fruit can be cut away and used.

"We are three boys from Syria who came to Canada six months ago and are upcycling food from food bank," said Alaa Alhraki, 25, who helps run Piece of the East.

Pastries, breads, jams

The business was founded by Sylvia Gawad, who helped the men learn English. It launched last week at the farmers' market along the Halifax waterfront.

Using food donated from the food bank, Alhraki said they make "sweet Syrian pastries, jam apples and strawberries and coconut bread."

Gawad is from Egypt and lived in Libya before she enrolled at Saint Mary's University in Halifax in 2011.

She said the new project has kept the refugees busy. They've been using kitchen space from another community social enterprise, Hope Blooms.

Reducing waste

Gawad said she hopes their small table at the farmers' market will turn into a recipe for success.

"The dream is to have our own sorting facility," she said. "Essentially, we would like to reduce some of that food waste and feed healthy food to the community."

Gawad, who just recently received permanent residency status in Canada, said Piece of the East is still working on creating formal partnerships to receive more food supplies.

With files from Zak Markan and Information Morning