'Lots of people need to eat': New food security program turns food waste into meals at All Nations Hope

Paige Klarer is a summer student at All Nations Hope. She had the idea to take food waste and turn it into meals for hungry people coming to the non-profit. Now she has two cafés, a grocer and a fast food restaurant involved in donating.

A summer student's idea now has bags of donated food coming in from Regina businesses

Volunteer Paige Klarer said a lot of people coming into All Nations Hope have health issues. 'We tell them you need to eat better but that’s not a reality because a lot of them … don’t have the transportation to go to the food bank.' (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Paige Klarer drives around and picks up day-old food from café​s in Regina. The bags full of scones, bread, buns, cinnamon buns and muffins are packed into green containers before she takes them to All Nations Hope on Fifth Avenue. 

When she walks in with the food buckets, she's greeted with many smiles. In the kitchen upstairs she unpacks the treats while bannock fries on the stove beside her.

Klarer runs All Nations Hope's new food security program. A volunteer summer student from the University of Regina, she had the idea to take food waste and turn it into meals — and now she's putting the idea into action.

"I've worked in the coffee house industry since I was a kid. I've always saw we were throwing so much food in the garbage and I always thought there had to be something that we can do," Klarer said.

"I started here [at All Nations Hope] and I saw so many people we couldn't feed because we didn't have enough food, and I put two and two together."

Paige Klarer, left, with Good Earth Café​ owner Allison Horton. The food Klarer picks up from café​s is usually a few bags of muffins, scones, cinnamon buns and other pastries. A local grocery store normally gives dairy products they then use for breakfasts. Any extras are handed out to people coming into All Nations Hope so none of the donated food goes in the garbage. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Klarer said the non-profit — which focuses on the physical, spiritual and social needs of Indigenous people living with and affected by HIV and hepatitis C — was excited about her idea, as it has a small budget to work with and a lot of people coming in. North Central Regina, where All Nations Hope is based, has a high rate of poverty.

"A lot of people don't have their own transportation so getting to a grocery store, even the food bank is not attainable," Klarer said. "They can walk here usually."

She said people have told her they're happy to have food options.

"I even had a gentleman make me some earrings as a thank you for providing the food," she said.

"It's been really helpful getting people into our programming at All Nations Hope because if you have food it's an incentive to come see what it's all about."

Klarer places the food from the café​ onto a tray to put out on the main floor of All Nations Hope. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

All Nations Hope offers programs like women's and men's groups, Cree language classes and beading classes.

Klarer said the number of people coming in for food varies, with an average of 25 a day, but "it depends when cheques go out."

"It can be upwards of, like, 50 some days," she said. "It gets pretty crowded. Lots of people need to eat."

Good Earth Café​ on South Albert is one of the café​s donating its day-old baking.

"I was looking for a way to give back to the community," said Good Earth owner Allison Horton. "It was a perfect fit."

Currently, the All Nations Hope food security program has donations from two café​s, one large grocer and occasionally a fast-food restaurant, but Klarer hopes to have more in the future.

Audrey Eyahpaise, right, said more people like Paige Klarer are needed. 'There’s only one person out of a million and that’s her. She’s our angel,' Eyahpaise said. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Audrey Eyahpaise is a cultural provider at All Nations Hope. She said it was amazing to know how many people Klarer was able to feed with her program.

"Sometimes we run out of food," Eyahpaise said. "It's heartbreaking turning people away."

"These people are from the streets.… They're poor, they're in pain, they're in predicaments, you know?" she said.

"We never had that here before — we never had that kind of an opportunity to give them whatever."

Klarer is optimistic the program will continue.

"I'm trying to make this sustainable," Klarer said. "I know the staff here will take care of it when I'm gone."

But she said there are more organizations in Regina that need food donations.

"If there's any businesses out there that are finding themselves throwing our extra food, they should absolutely reach out to All Nations Hope or any other organization they want to support."

With Files from CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition