Fighting Food Waste for a Better World

Fighting Food Waste for a Better World

Wasted Opportunity is Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International (VCMI)’s third and most recent report. In it, we dive deep into how much, where, and why surplus edible food is wasted in the food industry. We identified 127,177 businesses that are potential donors of surplus edible food within Canada’s food industry—including farmers, food processors, wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants, and catering services. 

Our research discovered that 3.2 million tonnes of surplus edible food is produced by Canada’s food industry each year. Of that, 96% is not rescued and redistributed for human consumption. 

Why? While viewpoints differ within the food industry, we found that barriers to donate edible surplus food were based on false and limiting beliefs that we can and must overcome. 

Why Rescuing and Redistributing Surplus Edible Food is Essential

Rescuing surplus edible food can help address Canada’s social and environmental issues (on top of others). Socially, food insecurity is on the rise and food charities are stretched to feed the millions of Canadians who experience hunger. Our second report, Canada’s Invisible Food Network (2021), found that there are 4X more food charities—at 61,000 non-profits—in our country than grocery stores. 

Environmentally, wasting edible food is an unsustainable (and wasteful) use of our resources and it’s harmful to our planet. On average, the rescue and redistribution of surplus edible food equates to a reduction of 3.82 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions for each tonne of food. Rescuing edible surplus, compared to sending it to a landfill, improves food-related greenhouse gas emissions seven-fold

What’s blocking the way forward? What can businesses in Canada’s food industry do? 

5 Blockers and Food Waste Solutions for Canada’s Food Industry

Sustainable Food Waste Solutions for Canada’s Food Industry

We found five factors that have the greatest impact on the willingness of businesses in Canada’s food industry to donate surplus edible food. Here they are with opportunities to skirt around them and overhaul our broken food system. 

1. Add Financial Benefits to Donating Surplus Food

Canada’s food industry makes profits and pays wages from the production, distribution, and sale of food. It is natural for industry stakeholders to view the donation of surplus food as less important to their commercial interests.

––Quoted from Wasted Opportunity report

The opportunity? Make it financially beneficial for businesses in the food industry to donate surplus edible food. For instance, when the Canadian government created the Surplus Food Rescue Program, food organizations were provided with $50 million in funding to purchase and redistribute surplus food. That helped incentivize businesses to donate. When funding ended, so did the donations.

2. Educate to Alleviate Legal Liability Concerns 

In Canada, many businesses are concerned about legal liabilities surrounding the donation of food, particularly perishable food. Yet there is no documented case in Canada of a business that donated surplus food being sued for negligence. So there is no precedent for legal liability—even if the food is perishable.

The opportunity? Create awareness and educate businesses in the food industry to help remove concerns around the legal liabilities of donating food. When a business follows its usual food safety protocols and donates food in good faith, they are protected against legal liability by the “Good Samaritan” and “Food Donation” acts of legislation. 

3. Set Policies for Donating Surplus Food with Incentives and Accountability

Our research shows that corporate policies preventing donation exist which are based on incorrect perceptions. Such policies are not regulations––they are seen across the supply chain as “the cost of doing business” and adopted because there is no accountability for reducing food waste within the industry. 

The opportunity? Put regulations in place that stipulate and encourage food industry businesses to rescue and donate a greater amount of their surplus edible food. Offer tax breaks or financial incentives to reward those businesses and hold others accountable that do not meet regulatory requirements. 

4. Coordinate Food Rescue and Donation Efforts 

The charitable food sector has limited financial resources and is often reliant on volunteers. This can present challenges around communication and workflow for businesses that want to donate to food rescue groups.

The opportunity? Second Harvest’s second report, Canada’s Invisible Food Network (2021), shed light on Canada’s unconnected patchwork of 61,000 non-profits trying to help feed 6.7 million Canadians in need of food. In response, we launched our Food Rescue App across the country to help facilitate and connect businesses looking to donate surplus edible food with those organizations in need of it. Technology and organizations like ours can help coordinate food rescue at scale. 

5. Make it Easier to Donate Surplus Food

Operational constraints across the food system make change difficult. Production lines are continuous, high volume, and one-way. Lines cannot be reversed, interrupted for small runs, or have different products introduced part-way along… Meanwhile, the charitable food sector has limited financial and logistical resources to quickly and efficiently support the rescue and redistribution of surplus edible food. 

There is a perceived complexity when it comes to changing systems in order to donate surplus food rather than dispose of it, business as usual. 

The opportunity? Encourage businesses to take a deep look at and review whether a proportion of what is incorrectly deemed organic waste is, in fact, surplus edible food that could be donated. This would require funding to support a reliable, effective, and efficient transportation solution to rescue and redistribute food surplus. 

Sustainable Food Waste Solutions for Canada’s Food Industry

Positive Food Waste Solutions for Canada

False and limiting beliefs are often all that prevent us from moving forward with sustainable action. We can overcome these constraints and limitations. By starting with small pilot programs where we can test and validate our hypotheses and work toward positive change at scale.  

Read more in our 2022 report, Wasted Opportunity.

Second Harvest would like to thank the Walmart Foundation for their continued support of Second Harvest through providing the necessary funding for this study, as we all work towards sustainable solutions that will drastically reduce the amount of food that is lost and wasted across the Canadian supply chain.
Patatas Bravas Madrina, by Chef Ramon Simarro, Madrina Bar Y Tapas

Patatas Bravas Madrina, by Chef Ramon Simarro, Madrina Bar Y Tapas

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes! What a versatile ingredient. Our favourite way to prepare potatoes is making crispy, saucy Patatas Bravas Madrina! This crowd-pleasing recipe will also be available to taste at Toronto Taste on June 12th! Grab your ticket today to enjoy tastes of recipes like the one below from 50 of the city’s top chefs. We can’t think of a more appetizing spring foodie event!

Patatas Bravas Madrina

(serves 8 pieces of patatas bravas)


  • 300 g peeled yukon potatoes
  • Dash Kosher salt


  • Slice the potatoes very thinly with the help of a mandolin, place them in a mixing bowl and season them with salt, once seasoned place them in layers in a baking tray previously covered with baking paper, we need to create 1.5 inches of potato layers. 
  • Preheat the oven at 350 Fahrenheit and then bake the potatoes for 30 minutes, let them cool for an hour at room temperature, and make sure the potatoes are well cooked with a knife. 
  • After, place the potatoes in the fridge with another tray on top of the baking tray and some weight for the potatoes to keep flat. 
  • After 5 hours the potatoes should be cold, now we proceed to take them out of the tray and cut them into strips approximately ¾ inch thick and 4 inches long, and keep them refrigerated.

For the Brava sriracha sauce

  • 50 g Confit onion
  • 5 gr Tomato paste
  • 5 g Sriracha sauce
  • 10 ml Olive oil
  • 4 g White sugar
  • 5 ml Sherry vinegar


  • Put all ingredients together in a small saucepan and cook slowly for an hour
  • Blend it until very smooth, let it cool down and store in the fridge inside a piping bag.

For the Wasabi mayonnaise

  • 50 g Mayonnaise
  • 4 g Wasabi powder


  • Mix the mayonnaise with the wasabi powder in a mixing bowl with a whisk until smooth, keep the mayonnaise in the fridge in a piping bag.


  • Fry the potato strips at 350 Fahrenheit until gold and crispy, place them in a drying paper to absorb the oil. Season with Maldon salt.
  • Place the potatoes in a small plate to share, make dots of the brava sauce and wasabi mayonnaise on top of the potatoes just like in the picture. Sprinkle chopped chives on top of the potatoes.

Food Waste Tip 

Store potatoes in a cool, dry place that is far away from onions! Storing potatoes and onions together causes them to ripen and spoil faster.

5 Questions … with Cargill

5 Questions … with Cargill

Second Harvest is grateful and humbled by the incredible corporate support that we receive to fight food insecurity across the country. We had the chance to ask a few questions to Connie Tamoto, Cargill’s Corporate Responsibility Senior Manager in Canada. Cargill has positively impacted communities with their tremendous work and have helped feed those in need.

1. Tell us about charitable partnerships at Cargill. What motivated your commitment to enriching the community? 

At Cargill we work to positively impact communities where our employees live and work. We do this by collaborating with strategic partners across the globe to bring our purpose of nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way to life. Even though we are a global company, our work starts at the community level, where millions of farmers, ranchers, and producers of all sizes grow the crops, livestock and other ingredients the world needs. Here in Canada, we are committed to giving back because we believe it is the right thing to do – whether that be through volunteering with local charities or partnering with organizations like Second Harvest.

2. How does your partnership with Second Harvest align with Cargill’s corporate values?

At Cargill, our values are do the right thing, put people first and reach higher. With Second Harvest’s commitment and mission to feed people and reduce the environmental impact of avoidable food waste in an innovative way, they embody each of our values every single day. 

3. If you could say one thing to people or other organizations who considering supporting Second Harvest, what would it be? 

Second Harvest’s programs that help feed Canadians in need are so important in addressing food security in Canada. The Second Harvest food rescue app is just one example of how the organization is coming up with new and innovative ways to bring surplus food to agencies across Canada including northern communities where there is a need for fresh and shelf-stable foods. 

4. Did Cargill’s community giving strategy change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Cargill continues to work with nonprofit and NGO partners around the globe to address some of the most urgent needs—including food insecurity and hunger. In addition to monetary donations, we are providing food, ingredients and other high-need products to vulnerable populations. Specially in Canada, Cargill has made contributions to national organizations providing emergency support to Canadians including Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest Canada and Breakfast Clubs Canada. Additionally, the company has partnered with the Canadian Cattleman’s Foundation at the founder’s level to support Canadian producers. 

All in all, our strategy didn’t change per se, but instead we exercised more agility and speed to bring resources and aid to those in our communities quicker. 

5. What does ‘No Waste, No Hunger’ mean to Cargill? 

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious and affordable food that meets their daily caloric and nutritional needs and provides the foundation for an active and healthy life. When we support programs like Second Harvest’s food rescue app, we know that surplus food is going to help feed those in need. 

Sami Abdurahim: Second Harvest’s Highway Star

Sami Abdurahim: Second Harvest’s Highway Star

Second Harvest’s very own Sami Abdurahim is the winner of this year’s Highway Star of the Year Award, presented by Today’s Trucking. The Highway Star of the Year exemplifies the best in Canadian truck drivers, who give back to their industry and community, and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to safety and professionalism. This is the first time that a Second Harvest staff member is receiving the award, which was presented to Sami at the Truck World show on April 23rd in Toronto.

Sami joined Second Harvest in 2006 and is the lead driver for our fleet of trucks. Second Harvest drivers do more than simply deliver food from the warehouse. They are a unique, frontline team of driver-ambassadors who work closely with agency staff at homeless shelters, seniors’ centres, after-school programs, food banks and many other non-profits that receive fresh, healthy perishable food. Sami’s professional, patient, and supportive approach is well-known among the agencies on his route. 

Sami drives Second Harvest’s 18-wheel tractor-trailer covering long distances to pick up fresh produce in cities like Leamington or Trenton, which are about three hours away from Second Harvest’s warehouse in Toronto where Sami is based. The tractor-trailer can hold up to 55,000 pounds of food that is delivered to social agencies across southern Ontario. “People are in need, and I have a duty to make their lives better and put food on their tables. When we show up, all we see are people smiling and happy. That’s a big win for us. When they smile and wave and say thank you, that’s the reward.”

Sami explains that his work driving the tractor-trailer requires constant focus and attention to ensure safety on the roads and highways. Driving such a large truck is a big responsibility that leaves no room for error. “Being a Second Harvest driver requires a high skill level because there are kids, there are people with mental health issues and addictions. You must be aware of your surroundings,” he says. “It’s not just putting the key in the ignition. We must always keep an eye out for safety and be on our best behaviour.”

So how does Sami feel about being the winner of this year’s Highway Star award?

“There is no word to describe how it makes me feel. I’ve reached a big goal and it’s one of the best things to ever happen in my life. I’m very honoured and grateful that Highway Star chose me for the award. But it’s not just about me. This award is also a reflection of Second Harvest’s work, of the driver-ambassador team, and of leaders who provided the opportunity to grow and learn every day.”

See the full story from Today’s Trucking HERE.

Volunteer Spotlight: Hyame Fadel-Jardine

Volunteer Spotlight: Hyame Fadel-Jardine

With Second Harvest’s annual event Toronto Taste fast approaching on June 12, 2022, long-time volunteer Hyame Fadel-Jardine takes pride in her role––and Second Harvest is better for it. We had a chance to ask Hyame a few questions about her role and history with Second Harvest and Toronto Taste.

How did you get involved in volunteering with Second Harvest?

My first volunteer experience for Second Harvest was in 2006, an 8:30 am Turkey Drive shift, after having finished work at 11:30 pm the night before. I covered for my mother who was not able to attend. As luck would have it, I worked with the volunteer coordinator at the time who explained Second Harvest’s mission to me. I left Loblaws that morning, with an appointment set up to discuss future volunteering opportunities, and with newfound knowledge about Second Harvest. An organization with a mission to feed the hungry in our city while rescuing food that was needlessly going to waste was one that I wanted to help and support. I have been volunteering ever since, at the office, at special events, including Toronto Taste.  Anything I can do to help, I will. 

When did you get involved with Toronto Taste?

My first Toronto Taste was awe inspiring; it was at The Hangar at Downsview Park. I was amazed at how that space could be transformed into such an elegant venue, all in the space of one day. I still feel that way during every single Toronto Taste I am at. I was stationed in the volunteer room, looking after snacks and food. I observed the staff and other volunteers working together to build chef stations, stock plates, stuff lanyards, decorate and whatever else was needed.  

I have had the privilege to be on the Steering Committee as a Volunteer Lead for the last few years. I enjoy working with the Second Harvest staff to plan a positive experience for the volunteers signing up to help at the event. I am always excited to welcome the over 200 volunteers both new and returning to the venue and to get them ready for the event ahead. 

What is your role with the Toronto Taste volunteer team?

As part of the volunteer lead team, we do what we can to make sure all volunteers are checked in, connected with their site leads, ready for the task ahead, and have a comfortable and welcoming space (and food) to take a break. I always hope that they leave feeling that they have done something great, made some new friends, and would like to help again. It is also so important to ensure that they are aware that whatever task they are assigned is valuable to the mission. 

What have you learned from working with Second Harvest?

I have seen Second Harvest grow from supporting the hungry in Toronto with a small number of trucks, to an organization that connects agencies in need to food that would have gone to waste through Food Rescue. This year is the 30th Anniversary of Toronto Taste!  It is hard to articulate just what it feels like to be part of this landmark year. For an event to be held for this long and with such success, is a testament to Second Harvest, their mission, and the positive effect they have on the communities they serve.  I can’t wait for the event on June 12th!

Click below to get join one of the most exciting and rewarding volunteer programs in Canada!