Joe Davidson’s journey with Second Harvest

Joe Davidson’s journey with Second Harvest

Editor’s Note: Second Harvest recognizes volunteers who have demonstrated dedication to our mission through their support with The Essential Harvester Award, one of the categories in the annual Food Rescue Awards event.  

This year’s nominees were Jim Kotowich, Nicole Caguiat and Joe Davidson, all of whom have made a significant impact on our success as an organization. Here, we spotlight the story of Joe Davidson, the winner of the 2024 Essential Harvester Award. 

While Joe Davidson and his wife were volunteering at a food bank in the Annex, they would often see a Second Harvest delivery truck. That piqued Joe’s interest, and after learning more about the organization’s mission, he signed up to be a volunteer without hesitation.  

“Food rescue addresses two of my primary concerns: food insecurity and climate change,” Joe said.  

Joe’s support couldn’t have come at a better time. It was early 2022—pandemic restrictions were slowly easing and Second Harvest just started to expand our community of volunteers. Following an initial call with the organization, Joe took the initiative to create a volunteer management system from scratch, drawing on his skills and experience working with Excel and data in the aviation industry. 

Since August 2022, Joe has spent over 500 hours on building and improving this system with Second Harvest’s volunteer services team. The result is a comprehensive database that covers the entire volunteer cycle, including recruiting, tracking and managing active and prospective volunteers. Joe’s expertise, along with his enthusiasm and solution-oriented attitude, has been invaluable.  

Joe has also been an ambassador for Second Harvest at major events. His most memorable experience was at The Royal Winter Fair, where we had an information booth with various interactive and educational activations about food waste. Joe enjoyed talking to guests and sharing his knowledge on the causes and impact of food waste. To his surprise, many were unaware that perfectly edible fruits and vegetables can end up in landfills just because they don’t meet certain esthetic standards.  

“You could actually see people visibly get angry that food waste would happen,” he recalled, “I’m hoping that this type of discussion will inspire people to take more action to address this problem.” 

To Joe, having awareness about a challenge is the first step towards understanding and solving it. During a truck ride-along with a Second Harvest’s driver-ambassador on his delivery route, Joe witnessed first-hand the effort that went into supporting those in need and the power of community actions. The experience gave him a new perspective on the magnitude of food insecurity in Toronto and fuelled his commitment to this cause.  

“We need to be better stewards of the environment and of each other. We need to be more compassionate, to take better care of each other, and strengthen our communities,” Joe said.  

Through conversations with friends, family and neighbours, he hopes to inspire them to learn more about food rescue, reflect on their habits to reduce food waste and support organizations like Second Harvest.  

“You don’t have to picture yourself performing a certain role before you apply to be a volunteer,” Joe said. “Just simply make it be known that you have the time and the willingness.” 

From supporting Syrian refugees to volunteering with Doctors Without Borders and a local climate organization, Joe has been actively involved in community service for the past 12 years. For now, his focus remains on Second Harvest.  

“I hope that I’m able to offer as much as I can as an individual, to continue to support the organization as long as I’m able to,” Joe said.  

Join Joe and other volunteers in making a tangible difference on the fight against food insecurity and food waste—become a Second Harvest volunteer today! 

Celebrating food scraps on Stop Food Waste Day

Celebrating food scraps on Stop Food Waste Day

Every year on April 24, people come together to observe Stop Food Waste Day, a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about the staggering amount of food wasted each day and promoting solutions to combat it. It’s a time for reflection and action, urging individuals and communities to rethink their food consumption habits and embrace sustainable practices in the kitchen. Let’s explore how we can elevate culinary creativity while reducing waste by giving common food scraps a second life. 

Watermelon rinds 

Instead of discarding watermelon rinds, pickle them with vinegar, salt, and spices for a refreshing snack or a unique addition to salads. 

Fruit peels

Zest lemon peels to infuse marinades, dressings, or baked goods with a burst of citrus flavour. You can also candy lemon peels for a sweet and tangy treat. 

Simmer fruit peels with water, sugar, and spices to create a fragrant syrup that can be used in cocktails, desserts, or as a drizzle over yogurt or pancakes. 

Vegetable scraps

Collect and freeze vegetable scraps such as carrot tops, celery leaves, herb stems and onion skins to make flavorful stocks and broths. Simply simmer the scraps with water, herbs, and spices for a homemade base for soups, stews, and sauces.  

You can also finely chop herb stems and add them to sauces, soups, or stir-fries to infuse them with subtle herbal flavours. 

Potato peels 

Transform potato peels into crispy snacks by tossing them with olive oil, salt and seasoning, then baking them until golden brown. You can also use potato peels to add texture to mashed potatoes or soups. 

Broccoli stems 

Shred broccoli stems and add them to slaws, stir-fries, or frittatas for added texture and nutrition. 

Cheese rinds

Cheese rinds are full of umami! Freeze them and add them to soups or stews to impart rich, savoury flavors. The rinds will slowly melt into the dish for more depth and complexity.

Coffee grounds 

Repurpose used coffee grounds as a natural exfoliant in DIY skincare products or use them to fertilize plants in your garden. Coffee grounds also work wonders as an odour neutralizer in your fridge or garbage disposal. 

This Stop Food Waste Day, let’s celebrate culinary creativity by embracing the potential of food scraps. Together, we can make a difference in reducing waste and building a more sustainable food system.  

Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables sows the seeds of a sustainable future

Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables sows the seeds of a sustainable future

“It has been a very fruitful relationship,” Jessica Wynne said with a chuckle.  

Wynne is the Sustainability Specialist at Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables Inc., winner of the From-the-Farm Award, one of the categories in the 2024 Second Harvest Food Rescue Awards. Within less than a year, Pfenning’s has donated over 300,000 lbs. of organic fruits and vegetables to Second Harvest. 

The Pfenning family has a long history of farming in Germany — more than 400 years — before establishing themselves here in New Hamburg, Ontario in 1981. Pfenning’s spans over 700 acres of fertile farmland, where 40 different crops of fruits and vegetables flourish under the stewardship of the family and their dedicated team. 

Pfenning’s also gives back to the community by supporting local food banks and community fridges. The partnership with Second Harvest allows the farm to broaden its impact to more people in need across the province. A donation typically takes several days to process and involves different teams: from packing, weighing to loading.  

“It’s a team effort and a team desire to want to make our community a better place,” Wynne said.  

Receiving a Food Rescue Award was a humbling and emotional experience for both Wynne and the Pfenning’s team. Cognizant of the magnitude of avoidable food waste in the food industry, Wynne said it was a wholesome feeling to know that every odd-looking carrot, bunch of greens and pint of strawberries could find a home in somebody’s pantry. 

“Farmers in general have a tremendous opportunity to make a meaningful difference regarding food security in our local community, our province, our country,” Wynne said. “It’s just a matter of wanting to feed our neighbours and having that extra diversion step so that our produce goes to feed people rather than ending up in compost.” 

At the heart of Pfenning’s mission is a deep-rooted commitment to sustainable practices that preserve the balance and prosperity of the ecosystem for the next generation. To Wynne, it’s as simple as “farming with nature” by respecting the ecosystem that includes not only the crops, but also microbial life and soil health, the employees who are planting, harvesting and packing the items, and the consumers of the produce.  

As an active member in organizations such as Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Canadian Organic Growers, the Organic Council of Ontario, Pfenning’s looks to inspire and work with other like-minded farmers to explore innovative options and opportunities for the farming industry to do better.   

Pfenning’s current collaboration with Second Harvest champions a circular food economy. Surplus produce not meeting donation standards is returned to Pfenning’s for composting, nurturing next season’s crops. This ensures nothing goes to waste — it’s the best of both worlds: nourishing people and the soil for healthy and resilient crops. The project is well underway, and Wynne is excited to see the results in the coming months. 

Looking ahead, Pfenning’s envisions a future grounded in continuity and commitment. 

“We will continue to be a family-owned organic farm that prioritizes the relationship we have with the land, our team members and the people consuming our crops,” Wynne said. “It is this relationship and our responsibilities that will help to propel our sustainability and philanthropic goals.” 

Champions for change recognized at the Food Rescue Awards

Champions for change recognized at the Food Rescue Awards

On February 13, we held the second annual Food Rescue Awards, shining a spotlight on the remarkable efforts of individuals, businesses and organizations committed to addressing food waste and hunger in Canada.  

Across 14 award categories, this year’s ceremony showcased a diverse array of supporters. From innovative businesses to passionate individuals, the nominees and winners alike demonstrated profound dedication to our mission of keeping food on plates and out of landfills.

See the full list of nominees and winners.

This year’s Food Rescue Awards also highlighted the incredible work of non-profits across the country from coast to coast to coast. 

Adding a delightful charm to the evening was the host Michelle Dubé, known for her charisma and engaging personality as the co-anchor of CTV News Toronto. Her navigation through the awards ceremony was seamless, creating an atmosphere of celebration and unity among the attendees. 

The Food Rescue Awards not only acknowledge the contributions of those dedicated to making a meaningful difference but also highlights the spirit of community and collaboration. Without our network of food and financial donors, volunteers and supporters, food rescue wouldn’t be possible. A big THANK YOU to all! 

Choose what you’ll use: Tips for meal planning success

Choose what you’ll use: Tips for meal planning success

During Food Waste Action Week, we celebrate small changes in daily habits that can make a significant lasting impact. The event was first launched in 2021 by WRAP, a climate action non-governmental organization started in the UK. It aims to bring businesses, government agencies and global partners together to address food waste at the household level and has since been supported by Canada’s National Zero Waste Council and their Love Food Hate Waste initiative. This year, Food Waste Action Week runs from March 18 to March 24 with the theme “Choose What You’ll Use”. It’s a perfect opportunity to highlight the benefits of buying loose fruits and vegetables, which can be achieved by an effective meal plan.  

Why you should buy loose fruits and vegetables  

In Canada, about 45 per cent of the food we waste at home is fruits and vegetables. That amounts to over 1 million tonnes of food wasted each year, the equivalent of $6.2 billion. Most often it’s the result of bulk discount or impulse purchase that leads to excess food. Loose produce enables you to buy exactly what you need and have better control over the quality of the items purchased. This approach reduces the chances of fruits and vegetables going bad before you can use them.  

Tips for meal planning success  

To maximize the benefits of buying loose produce and avoid impulse purchase, having an effective meal plan is key. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  • Take inventory of pantry and fridge: Before making your grocery list, check your pantry and refrigerator. Take note of what you already have on hand to avoid unnecessary purchases. This step ensures you make the most of what you already have and only buy what you need. 
  • Create a go-to recipe list: Identify a handful of reliable and easy-to-make recipes that you enjoy. Having a list of go-to recipes can simplify your planning process and ensure that you always have quick and nutritious options on hand. 
  • Plan around seasonal produce: If possible, create a meal plan around seasonal produce and stick to your shopping list when you hit the grocery store. Incorporating seasonal produce not only enhances the flavour of your meals but can also be more affordable and environmentally friendly. 
  • Batch cooking and prep ahead: Streamline your cooking process by preparing ingredients in batches. Chop vegetables, marinate proteins, or cook grains in advance. Learn some batch cooking and preservation techniques to prevent spoilage and make the most of seasonal produce. 
  • Invest in storage solutions: Glass containers with lids are versatile – they can withstand heat and are easier to wash as they don’t absorb smells or stain like their plastic counterparts.  

For more practical tips on how to create a meal plan to get more bang for your buck and navigate the grocery stores like a pro, join our upcoming webinar Plan It for the Planet: Meal Planning to Fight Food Waste.