Food Waste is a social, economic, and environmental problem. Fifty-eight percent of all food in Canada is lost and wasted annuall. For perspective, that’s 35.5 million tonnes of food each year, which results in the creation of 56.5 million tonnes of CO₂E emissions. That’s equivalent to emissions from 17.3 million passenger vehicles or the gasoline from more than 750,000 tanker trucks.
Of all the food that’s wasted, 11.2 million tonnes could be rescued and redirected to support the 5.6 million Canadians facing food insecurity today. Instead, $49 billion of surplus edible food is lost or wasted each year, left to rot in landfills.
This is where Second Harvest comes in. We rescue surplus edible food that was destined for landfills and redirect it to a network of more than 3,000 front line non-profit agencies across the country that provide direct support to children, seniors, adults, families and individuals. In the last year, we rescued more than 41 million pounds of food, and this year we’re on track for even more.
How it Started
Second Harvest was officially founded in 1985 and consisted of two people driving around Toronto in a small hatchback to recover food waste from restaurants and grocery stores and then distributing it to non-profit agencies around the city.
How it’s Going
Today, Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization and we’re experts in perishable food recovery. In the last three years, we’ve grown our focus from the Greater Toronto Area to all of Canada. Working with partners across the supply chain and thousands of food businesses, transportation and cold storage providers, we rescue and redistribute food to every province in Canada, including remote northern regions. We have staff located all across the country and we’re able to successfully rescue food from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Second Harvest is also a thought leader in the space of food rescue and food waste. Since 2019, we’ve published three significant research reports that have quantified and studied food waste and recovery in great detail. Our three reports, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste (2019), Canada’s Invisible Food Network (2021) and Wasted Opportunity (2022) are available here.
To support the needs of the food businesses and non-profit partners we work with, we’ve created the Second Harvest Food Rescue App. The premise is simple: Businesses with surplus food log in and create a donation posting. Nearby non-profits which have registered in the app, are notified about available donations. If it’s something they can use, these non-profits are able to “claim” the donations and arrange to pick them up directly from the businesses that have offered the donation.
Our work with Events, Hotels and Caterers
More than 450 Hotels, Restaurants, Caterers and Events companies have accounts on the Second Harvest Food Rescue app, with over 1,900 locations across the country. This has lead to some great impact from the industry. Since the food rescue app launched in 2018, these accounts have rescued and redistributed enough food for 3,400,000 meals. This represents a total value of $10,426,525 and 11,666,137 pounds of greenhouse gases averted.
Second Harvest works with groups like, Culinary Tourism Alliance, the Sustainable Events Forum, the Circular Innovation Council and more to connect and educate around food rescue within the sector.
Hotels, Restaurants, Caterers and Event Planners were some of the most generous donors when the Covid-19 pandemic began. Many businesses joined the food rescue app to donate the product they had in their fridges and freezers. This enabled us to expand our operations nationally almost overnight. The kindness and generosity of those in the hospitality sector kept many Canadians fed and many continue to donate their surplus regularly to their community partners.
But don’t just take it from us. Second Harvest is regularly referenced in the news, and our impact is well-documented regionally around Canada.
- Nikkel: ‘Best before’ dates on food are long past their prime in Canada | Ottawa Citizen
- Food waste equals wasted opportunity for Canada’s food sector – Restobiz
- Truckloads of P.E.I. potatoes arriving at food banks across Canada | CBC News
- Second Harvest announces $4.5-million in grants for food charities – The Globe and Mail
- The hot potato drop hits Haida Gwaii with 20,000 lbs of spuds – Prince Rupert Northern View (thenorthernview.com)
- Planners for the Planet Podcast – The Sustainable Events Forum