A new and unique effort to feed those in need while protecting the environment at the same time has launched in the North Okanagan.
Local food businesses, charities and farmers are invited to join the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) Food Recovery Network, which has been created by Vancouver-based startup FoodMesh.
Thanks to a $45,000 ReTHINK Waste grant from the RDNO, FoodMesh is helping local organizations divert their surplus food away from landfills and compost to people and families in need.
A 2022 waste composition study completed in the RDNO found that of all the food waste ending up in the landfill, 76 per cent was avoidable, meaning the food was still edible. The goal of FoodMesh is to address this problem and, as a bonus, benefit the environment by decreasing the amount of organic waste sent to landfills, which is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
FoodMesh’s main role is to connect organizations that have extra food with charitable organizations that are able to provide that food to those in need.
“We connect organizations, those that have surplus food, unsold food. There’s very often an organization that is in need of donations or in need of surplus food, so our effort is focused on making those connections, building that network,” said Diana Scott, senior manager of product for FoodMesh.
FoodMesh’s priority is to feed humans, but when that’s not possible, it makes connections to feed animals with unused food.
“Food waste is a significant issue in Canada, and the North Okanagan is no exception,” says Jessica Regan, CEO and co-founder of FoodMesh. “With rising food costs affecting everyone, keeping food out of landfills and in the hands of people who need it most has never been more important. We are grateful to the Regional District of North Okanagan for its support in addressing this important issue.”
Scott said prior to the pandemic, one in seven Canadians was without food security. Post-pandemic, that number is as high as one in four.
“We know it’s a considerable problem, (but) not unique to the North Okanagan, it’s a problem across Canada,” she said.
“And if food waste was a country it is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas,” Scott added.
To celebrate the launch of the Food Recovery Network, FoodMesh is offering five local retailers with free access to its managed retail food diversion service, which is designed to help maximize diversion of their unsold food to people in need.
Through the service, FoodMesh sets up retailers with a network of charities to which they can donate their unsold food, and provides the technology to track the volume of food donations and to measure the impact they are having. The free service will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Food Recovery Network launched April 1 so there has not been a lot of time to grow the network. Therefore, FoodMesh is inviting any local businesses, charities, retailers, farmers, food service providers and grocers who want to get involved to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
FoodMesh has been in operation since 2017, and it has launched food recovery networks in other regions in B.C. Its food recovery program is developed in-house.
“It’s unique to us. I’m not aware of anything similar,” Scott said.