During a visit to the Nutri Group’s head office in Quebec, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a $50 million federal initiative “designed to address urgent, high volume, highly perishable surplus products falling under fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and seafood.” Prior to COVID, this food was sold to restaurants. Now, instead of letting it go to waste, the federal government will distribute it to food banks and local food organizations across Canada. So what does the Surplus Food Rescue Program mean for our area?
Purchasing Food At The National Level
Details about distribution have not been finalized, as the program was only announced yesterday.
“This federal grant is specially for the large scale purchase of surplus product at the national level. Food banks across the country will be receiving support in the form of high quality food, not funds, that they can distribute to their clients. We are working with Food Banks BC which, with other provincial associations, is looking to distribute the food across the country equitably,” explained Tania Little, Chief Development and Partnerships Officer of Food Banks Canada.
“I believe the latest move of the feds is mainly aimed at helping farmers by buying their excess production. The larger food banks, like Campbell River and Nanaimo, are probably better indicators of the need out there. The Quadra food bank is relatively small and demand is fairly consistent, so we are coping well,” added Amanda Smith, volunteer co-ordinator Quadra Island Food Bank.
What Is the Surplus Food Rescue Program?
“The Surplus Food Rescue Program is a time-limited program to help manage and redirect existing surpluses to organizations addressing food insecurity and to avoid food waste. Applicants were required to demonstrate an ability to handle the full logistical requirements for acquiring, processing, transporting and ensuring shelf-life stability of surplus commodities, and ensuring the food reaches vulnerable populations in Canada, with a target of 10% reaching northern communities. Food distributed to territories will ensure that it reaches the populations most in need without disrupting food supply in these regions,” explained James Watson of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
“The program is providing funding to eight organizations, who formed partnerships with a range of players, and who will leverage existing food redistribution and recovery networks and agencies to distribute the surplus food to Canada’s most vulnerable populations throughout every region in the country.”
“AAFC divided program funds towards three categories of surplus food, determined by monetary value, volume, and perishability: horticulture (potatoes and other root vegetables primarily), meat, fish and seafood.”
Quadra Island Food Bank
Smith explained, “Quadra food bank has already benefited from the diversion of food which would normally have gone to food services. For four months we have received as many eggs as we needed to fulfill demand. Salmon farmers have also made large contributions of frozen and canned fish. We are also now getting pre-packed emergency food boxes for distribution containing shelf-stable foods. We have received federal monetary assistance for the past four months, plus received our share of the COVID emergency funding gathered from other sources and distributed through Food Banks BC.”
“We did see an initial surge in demand before CERB (the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) kicked in. It has since levelled off but we expect demand to pick up again in the fall. We are also doing outreach while we have extra food coming in to help our seniors with care packages which are delivered by volunteer drivers.”
Cortes Food Bank
Many people who would normally have been employed at Hollyhock, or in the island’s aquaculture sector or in some of the island’s small businesses, are either not working or working fewer hours because of COVID.
“I imagine that things are only going to get worse when CERB is finished,” said Statton.
This story was originally published on August 14.
In regard to possible benefits from the the Surplus Food Rescue Program, Statton subsequently informed Cortes Currents that, ” it doesn’t mean anything for the Cortes Island Food Bank, it isn’t a registered charity. There has been a small increase in food bank use since COVID. We are always grateful for donations of food and cash. People can continue to donate food or money, it’s always appreciated.”
Top photo credit: Poultry by United Soybean Board via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)