May 18, 2022

Wood Buffalo Food Bank gets a boost with Food Diversion Program

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association picked up boxes of food from Save-on-Foods today and there was no receipt at the end of the trip.

The food bank has partnered with the grocery chain and Loop Resource for a new food waste diversion program.

The Loop program works with grocery stores to collect food that would be thrown in the trash, due to damaged packaging or approaching expiration dates, and donate it to local food banks or farmers.

On Tuesday, the Wood Buffalo Food Bank picked up its first boxes of salvaged food from downtown Save-on-Foods.

Colin Samson, warehouse manager for the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, has been working to set up the program in Fort McMurray for several years, but issues like the pandemic and the 2020 floods have delayed the project.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and to finally see it happen is an amazing feeling,” Samson said.

“I don’t want to see food go to landfill.”

Samson said the program will not replace the food in average food baskets, but will supplement and offer certain items that are not usually included due to price.

“There will just be things in there that we can’t afford to give away,” Samson said. “In the one we just loaded, I noticed there was a pile of cheese in it.”

Food is loaded into the Wood Buffalo Food Bank truck. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The food bank feeds approximately 160 families per week.

Cathy Weiss, manager of the downtown Save-on-Foods store, said the program will help reduce waste.

“It should normally go down in the compactor and not be used for anything else,” Weiss said.

Every day, store employees go through and remove expired products from the shelves.

“We can save what we can now and help families in need,” Weiss said.

She estimates that there’s about a palette or two of products each day they can save.

The Loop program will be run at all three Save-on-Foods in Fort McMurray.

Paul Eckersley, Colin Samson and Cathy Weiss. Officials from Save-on-Foods and the Wood Buffalo Food Bank met today to organize the first delivery under the Loop program. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Paul Eckersley, manager of the Save-on-Foods store in Thickwood, said he had already participated in the program when he worked in British Columbia and that it diverts about 90% of food waste.

“The amount of food we throw away as a company was staggering and now to see how Loop has changed that is quite remarkable,” Eckersley said.

“In retail, a lot of food, there’s nothing wrong with it, it could be a packaging issue…and it’s not good enough to sell, but it’s definitely good enough to eat,” Eckersley said.

Jaime White, new project manager at Loop, said food that is not good enough for human consumption is then given to farmers to feed their livestock. Part of the meat will be given to sled dogs or farm dogs.

White said 11 farmers in the Wood Buffalo area will be able to get feed from the program for their animals. All farmers are hobby farmers and backyard producers.

White said the addition of the Loop program to Fort McMurray means every Save-on-Foods west of Manitoba participates in a food diversion program.