Every morning volunteers haul hundreds of pounds of food, that was otherwise destined for dumpsters, into the basement board room at Community Connections.
For the last two years Revelstoke’s underground food recovery program has been one of the leaders in movement in the province. Last year the team was invited to contribute to a food recovery manual that is now being used nation-wide.
“We get a lot of calls from other municipalities,” said Mason Blackmore, coordinator of the program.
And now, two years later, the program is catching on. Earlier this year Save-On-Foods began a pilot project in Chilliwack aiming to reduce food waste.
But Revelstoke is ahead of the game. Since its inception in 2016 the program’s volunteers have collected 285,000 pounds of food. It is then distributed through 25 different agencies in town including the food bank, the Women’s Shelter and the school district’s breakfast programs, among others.
“Not only are we keeping all of that food out of the landfill, we are keeping all of the packaging because we run a zero waste program,” said Patti Larson, director of community outreach and development at Community Connections.
Food that isn’t fit for human consumption is donated to local farmers who use it as animal feed and the program employs someone who takes care of the recycling every week.
So far the project has received funding from the Columbia Basin Trust as well as Food Banks Canada, but they are in limbo at the moment waiting to hear back on funding applications to continue the project.
In town both grocery stores are on board and volunteers collect food from them every day except Fridays. Other businesses in town donate their leftover food at the end of the day including Starbucks, Tim Hortons and long time supporter Mountain Meals.
“Mountain Meals has been on board for years, even prior to this particular program,” Larson said.
They freeze the soup they have left at the end of the day and it is one of the first things to go from the food bank on Fridays.
Larson added that there is an understanding between the program and the donors that healthy food is top priority.
“People don’t make choices to be unhealthy, I think they are there because of their income, they are there because of circumstance,” she said.
The program currently operates out of the basement at Community Connections. Two or three volunteers pack, sort and delivery the food to various locations every day. On Thursday afternoons the extra food from the week is hauled over to the basement at the legion, which houses the food bank on Fridays. A literal underground movement.
It is the volunteers that make the program work and they are always looking for more, Blackmore said.
Don’t have the time? Financial donations are needed as well to purchase food that isn’t recovered or donated as well as vitamins and other necessities for the clients.