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Food banks help the food chain reduce waste and transform food. Here’s how Food Banks Canada is supporting Canadians through food recovery and transformation when they need it most.

Each month, food banks across the country help hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with food insecurity because they can’t afford the nutrition they need. More than a third of those relying on food banks are children, and nearly half are from single-person households.

Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization that represents the food bank network across the country. The charity collaborates with more than 750 affiliated food banks, 4,001 food agencies, and 10 provincial associations to feed Canadians.

Leaders in food recovery and transformation

According to the National Zero Waste Council, almost 2.2 million tons of edible food are wasted each year, costing Canadians more than $17 billion.

Food recovery is a significant and important part of Food Banks Canada’s mission to relieve and prevent hunger. In the past 10 years, the charity has recovered more than 1.4 billion pounds of food from retailers, manufacturers, growers, and processors.

For four decades, food banks have been valuable solution partners in helping the food chain reduce waste and transform food. Through its National Food Sharing System, Food Banks Canada acquires fresh, nutritious, and good-quality food to share with its network of local food banks.

Many of Food Banks Canada’s affiliate food banks also run innovative food transformation programs. The UHC: Hub of Opportunities in Windsor, ON takes surplus agricultural foods to make nutritious soups, Harvest Manitoba recently expanded its Urban Agricultural Program to provide dehydrated, protein-rich soups across the province, and Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank in Nanaimo, BC runs the Food 4U Food Recovery program, providing meals to those in need across Vancouver Island.

The role of partnerships in moving the needle

One of Food Banks Canada’s most innovative partnerships is with The For GOOD Foundation, a charitable organization that sources manufacturing and food opportunities at no profit or discounted rates, and then develops high-quality food. It works with Food Banks Canada to deliver that food to those in need.

Another critical partnership exists with policymakers. Each year, Food Banks Canada publishes research, analysis, and recommendations to reduce hunger and poverty, with an emphasis on advocating for government policy and legislation changes. These findings are used by government parties, academia, and members of the public interested in making a real difference.

Response to the COVID-19 crisis

In the early days of the pandemic, food banks across Canada saw a massive surge in visits. They faced unprecedented challenges, with reductions in volunteers, shortages in food supply due to disruptions in the supply chain, and a decline in public donations. New public health protocols meant food banks had to adjust quickly to provide PPE and implement new guidelines and processes to deliver food safely to those in need.

Food Banks Canada’s COVID-19 Response Fund was established to help community organizations recover from the challenges of the pandemic. One initiative was securing food and volunteers to pre-pack nutritious hampers that were sent to food banks across the country. Another was redistributing food destined for restaurants (which was left unsold due to supply chain disruptions) to food banks across the country. Looking ahead, the organization hopes the pandemic was a lesson that new, permanent income support models and other social policies need to be implemented so Canadians can be food secure.

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