British Columbia

Foodbank's 'absolutely stunning' landfill diversion program expanding across B.C.

The Kamloops Food Bank got access to an extra $5 million worth of meat, bread, dairy and produce in 2016 by working with retailers to keep perishable foods out of landfills.

In 2016 the Food Share program saved $5 million worth of food from landfills

About 30 per cent of the food collected from retailers is already expired and goes straight to local farmers to feed livestock. (David Horemans/CBC)

As the demand for food banks continues to rise in British Columbia, the Kamloops Food Bank is stepping up to mentor 100 smaller food banks across the province in the art of food waste diversion.

Kamloops' Food Share program diverted almost 700,000 kilos of perishable food from landfills in 2016, according to Kamloops Food Bank executive director Bernadette Siracky.

"We get meat, dairy, produce, bread. It's absolutely stunning the amount that would have gone to the landfill without this program," Siracky told Shelley Joyce, host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

The food bank operates two refrigerated trucks, seven days a week, to transport perishable food items from 21 local grocers that would have otherwise thrown the products in the trash.

The food is brought back to a warehouse to be sorted and then distributed to about 45 local agencies that make meals for people in need as well as around 7,000 individuals that access food bank services.

About one-third of the food is already expired and is sent directly to farmers to feed their animals.

"This is a zero-waste program. It's really quite stunning," said Siracky.

Built on trust

In order to get access to the grocers' food, the food bank had to share its operational plan and details of how it would ensure the food would stay safe to eat throughout transportation, storage and distribution.

Siracky said the trust between the stores and the food bank makes the whole thing possible.

"That's the piece that we want to help these smaller food banks create — strong systems, efficient processes, and have them engage with their stores in a very professional manner," she said.

The Food bank estimates that the Food Share program costs about $200,000 per year and helped divert around $5 million worth of food waste from landfills in 2016 alone.

In March, the province announced $10 million in funding to Foodbanks B.C. to promote food reclamation.

Nanaimo and Revelstoke food banks now run similar programs and helped develop a manual for new food diversion programs for Foodbanks B.C.

"We don't want to misuse this. We really want to ensure that food recovery spreads over this province in a very thoughtful way," said Siracky.