Leftovers YEG foundation helps save thousands of pounds of food by giving it a second chance

An Edmonton not-for-profit organization is helping save thousands of pounds of food from being thrown away by collecting it from bakeries, cafes and grocery stores.

Last month, over 16,000 pounds of food was collected from across Edmonton

Jennifer Semeniuk, a volunteer driver with Leftovers YEG, holds a bag of food donated by Transcend Coffee. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

Thousands of pounds of food in our city that is often destined for the dumpster is saved every day and helps feed people from all walks of life.  

Leftovers YEG Foundation has seen its numbers triple during the pandemic, going from 14 collection routes per week to 44. 

"It's so great because it's really good nutritious food as well," said Garnet Borch, who oversees the Edmonton operation. 

The idea was started in Calgary in 2012 and began in Edmonton in 2018.

An Edmonton not-for-profit is helping save thousands of pounds of food from being thrown away by collecting it from bakeries, cafes and grocery stores. 1:55

Between both cities, more than 310,000 pounds of food — about 140,600 kilograms — was collected last year alone.  

Most of the food is from bakeries, cafes and grocery stores that either hasn't been sold or is nearing the end of its shelf life.  

"It might be out of a farmer's market at the end of the day, greens that may not last until the next week.  The vendors at the market are very happy to donate the food that they put such hard work into to take to a local charity," Borch added.

Businesses that want their food to be picked up alert the foundation's app. The food pickup request is then paired with a number of different charities where drivers drop it off. 

Drivers sign into the app and volunteer for whatever route they feel matches their own schedule, and away they go. 

"It's really up to the volunteers on schedule to make it happen," said Borch. 

Jennifer Semeniuk spent less than an hour on her day off helping collect enough food from two Transcend Coffee locations and the Bonjour Bakery. 

The three stops filled up the back of her SUV with food. 

"Even on one of my runs last week, it was well over 300 pounds of food," said Semeniuk who heard about the foundation through its Facebook page. 

That food went to the University of Alberta's campus food bank, where staff said the donations are always welcomed. 

"Pastries are a nice surprise too, you open up your hamper and you get a cookie, or a muffin, or a bagel or something. It's comfort food," said Madi Corry, program manager at the campus food bank.

Last month, Leftovers YEG collected over 16,000 pounds of food. 

Borch said they could save even more food but they need more drivers. 

For Semeniuk, it's her way to help save food for those who truly need it. 

"We realize at this point in the pandemic that we can't have people at our own dinner table and we feel really alone," she said. 

"Being able to do this for Leftovers makes me realize even though I can't have people at my dinner table, I can make sure that other people have food on their dinner table."