London

How this unassuming white truck will help feed the city's hungry

The London Food Coalition will coordinate the pickup of food that grocery stores can't sell and redistribute it to partner agencies who use it to feed the city's hungry.

The refrigerated truck will pick up food seven-days-a-week from grocery stores that would have thrown it out

Dough Whitelaw stands in front of the new refrigerated truck that will pick up discarded food from grocery stores and redistribute it to agencies that help the hungry. (Submitted photo)

Thousands of pounds of produce that would otherwise have been thrown out by grocery stores will be redistributed to London agencies that will use it to feed the city's hungry. 

The London Food Coalition will coordinate the pickup of the food from grocery stores, including the city's two Costco locations, and bring it to a hub at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope. 

The food is often being thrown out because of cosmetic reasons. 

From the Centre of Hope hub, the food will be given to more than 30 organizations and groups that help feed hungry people across the city.

"We get tons of tomatoes. In Costco, they come in little plastic tubs with a thin film lid. If that lid is open, people don't buy it. Or you get a box of berries, there's a berry on top that's a bit squishy. As a consumer, you're going to get the one without the squished berry," said Doug Whitelaw, the executive director of the Ark Aid Mission, which is coordinating the London Food Coalition efforts. 

An Ark Aid driver, who already picks up food that would otherwise be discarded from Western University cafeterias and catering services, will start making the rounds with the refrigerated truck later this week. 

"Between our truck and the truck that Mission Services has, there will be a truck out collecting food seven days a week. We don't want them thinking they can throw things out," Whitelaw said. 

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The refrigerated truck was purchased, using money from the city, because Costco and some other retailers didn't want to donate food that was being transported in an unrefrigerated truck. Ark Aid initially partnered with Costco last year.  

The truck cost $62,000, which is the almost the same value as the food collected and distributed every month. 

"It can be a significant savings to the bottom line for our partner agencies," he said. 

The partners, which include My Sister's Place, Meals on Wheels, Unity Project, neighbourhood resource centres, and churches that run daily or weekly meals for the hungry, pay $75 a month. 

"The idea is that all of these agencies are already spending money on food. The idea is to divert this money from the retail grocery store to the upkeep of this truck," Whitelaw said. "The value of the food will exceed the cost of the membership, so they will increase the money they will have to spend." 

Reports have shown that more than $30 billion worth of food is thrown out in Canada every year, more than half from grocery stores that can't sell their food. 

The London Food Coalition truck will expand in the future to pick up meat that is also going to be thrown out for cosmetic reasons. 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.