The Salvation Army in Fort St. John has partnered with three grocery stores to launch a new perishable food recovery program in the city.
The organization is working with Amanda's No Frills, Safeway, and Save-On Foods, and made its first rounds to the stores today to pick up good, surplus food otherwise destined for the landfill.
"The purpose is to reduce waste and put food into the mouths of people who need it," said Cameron Eggie, executive director.
The Salvation Army launched the program with the help of a $9,000 grant through Foodbanks BC. The grant helped buy new refrigeration units for the Salvation Army food bank on 100 Avenue, and red collection bins for each participating store.
Through the partnership, stores have the option of supplying the Salvation Army with produce, dairy, and protein when reviewing their inventory each night. The Salvation Army picks up the collection bins each morning Monday through Friday, and distributes the food to clients the same day through its food bank.
Provincial laws such as the Food Donor Encouragement Act protects businesses and individuals from liability when donating food, or distributing donated food when doing so in good faith. Eliminating those legal barriers goes a long way to encourage stores to donate, said Amanda Cox, owner of Amanda's No Frills.
"As a storeowner, you see all of this product going to waste and it's such a shame," she said.
Just how much extra perishable food the store will have to offer the Salvation Army will vary day by day, Cox said. But, "even if we're feeding half a dozen families per day, that definitely adds up," she said.
Since February, the Salvation Army has distributed $75,000 worth of food to those in need, Eggie said. He expects the value of distributed food to increase by at least 50 per cent with the new program.
The Salvation Army will be monitoring community response through the month of June to see how the program takes root. Volunteers are needed to make sure the program is successful — from helping to manage the daily pickups, to sorting the food before it gets distributed to clients, Eggie said.
"We want to see what we can handle," he said. "The more volunteers we have, the faster we can process the food."
Those interested in helping with the program, either as a vendor or volunteer, can call 250-785-0506.
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