Feeding Our Future Tackles Summer Hunger for Kids in the GTA

Feeding Our Future Tackles Summer Hunger for Kids in the GTA

Eating healthy and nutritious meals every day is essential for children and youth. A well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and healthy fat nourishes and fuels their growing minds and bodies. Plus, it sets a lifetime of good habits early on. 

In 2021 in Canada, 1 in 5 children lived in food-insecure households. That is 1.4 million children and youth under 18 in Canada’s ten southernmost provinces who experience some level of food insecurity.

Millions of children and youth rely on school nutrition programs during the school year. In Toronto, for example, more than 200,000 kids participate in daily Student Nutrition Programs run by thousands of volunteers. The Breakfast Club of Canada feeds more than 580,000 children in 3,500+ school nutrition programs each morning. They do this to help ensure that all children are well-fed and thus have an equal chance to learn and thrive.

What happens in the summer when school food programming ends? How do we ensure that food insecure children and youth get the daily nutrition they need and deserve?

Feeding Our Future: Canada’s Free Summer Food Program for Kids 

Feeding Our Future: Canada’s Free Summer Food Program for Kids

Second Harvest launched Feeding Our Future in 2012 to tackle summer hunger by providing healthy food and resource kits to agencies that run summer programs for kids in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Since then, the program has grown to become Canada’s largest free summer lunch program. 

In 2022, Second Harvest partnered with 32 agencies in the GTA that host summer camps or offer free lunch pickups for children and youth. The communities served through this program are situated in what the City of Toronto describes as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. They are highlighted by their need for support to improve social, economic and physical conditions. For instance, the North York Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples and several neighbourhood Boys and Girls Clubs that run kids’ summer camps participate in the Feeding Our Future program. 

Last year, we supported 2,500+ children and youth at camps with food and resources in the summer. This year, we had requests to support more than 6,000. This growth in demand speaks volumes about the growing level of food insecurity in our community.

In the summer of 2022, with the generosity of 222 volunteers donating more than 885 hours, Feeding Our Future produced and distributed more than 16,000 food and resource kits. This year, the program has supported more than 5,500 children and youth in the GTA. While the demand for healthy food persists, these nutrition-packed kits made a world of difference, ensuring that many kids had the energy and nourishment needed to learn and play and that families don’t have to choose between food or rent this summer.

Breaking the Cycle of Summer Hunger for Kids in Canada 

“The kits have been helpful in breaking the cycle of hunger, in addition to the learning around clean and healthy food. Week after week, our program participants continue to express heartfelt appreciation for this kindness expressed by Second Harvest and all the donors and funders of Feeding Our Future program. With our hearts full of gratitude.”

—Lady Ballers Camp

Feeding Canadian Kids Healthy Food in the Summer Thanks to Donors

Feeding Kids Healthy Food in the Summer Thanks to Donors

Each kit includes a rotating fruit component, vegetable, grain, protein, snack and beverage—plus something fun for the kids as a recreational item. Most of these items were purchased by Second Harvest or donated by some of our generous donors. 

This program would not be possible without the support and generosity of financial supporters, in-kind donors who donated food and recreational items for the kits, hundreds of volunteers and our agency partners working on the ground in communities across the GTA. 

A special thank you to all of our Feeding Our Future donors:

In-Kind Donors

  • Blue Triton
  • Buddha Brands
  • Frontier College 
  • Mastermind Toys
  • Nature’s Path Organic
  • Penguin Random House
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada


  • Green Shield Insurance
  • Loyalty One
  • Marner Assist Foundation
  • The Otto and Marie Pick Charitable Foundation
Feeding Canadian Kids Healthy Food in the Summer Thanks to Donors

Words of Kindness From Feeding Our Future Agency Partners

“Parents are very thankful for the program as it has helped to offset the cost of feeding the children while at home.”

 —Rhema Food Bank

“The program reflects the strength and impact of community partnerships to help marginalized communities dealing with food security issues.”

—Toronto Central SDA

“Participating in this program has been great and has allowed us to reach a new youth audience that we haven’t been able to engage in our catchment area.”

—Toronto Centre for Learning and Development

“We are immensely happy and thankful to Second Harvest for allowing us to be part of this program. The MLMIF has been able to help low-income families with children every week thanks to the contributions provided by Second Harvest.”

—Maria Luisa de Moreno International Foundation (MLMIF)

“Everything has been great. A lot of our children arrive with snacks that are not sufficient or not very nutritious so it’s great to be able to offer additional snacks to keep them fuelled up with healthy food!”

—BGC Toronto Kiwanis (St. Mary Site)

Words of Kindness From Feeding Our Future Agency Partners in Canada's GTA

Learn more about Second Harvest’s Feeding Our Future program today.

The Farm-to-Table Story of Surplus Food in Canada

The Farm-to-Table Story of Surplus Food in Canada

An interview on donating surplus food in Canada with Holburne Mushroom Farm

Farmers in Canada ride a rollercoaster of good times and bad when it comes to supply and demand. Sometimes, farmers can’t produce enough inventory to keep up with the needs of distributors, retailers and consumers. Other times, however, sales slow and they’re left with surplus edible food.

Holburne Mushroom Farm is a family-owned and operated wholesale farm business based in Queensville, Ontario. In fact, it’s currently the largest supplier of fresh organic shiitake and oyster mushrooms in Canada.  It produces 25,000 pounds of organic shiitake mushrooms and 5,000 pounds of organic oyster mushrooms every week from its 20,000-square-foot facility. Annual distribution from Holburne surpasses 1.3 million pounds. Recently the company has begun donating surplus mushrooms to Second Harvest.

We recently caught up with Stephen Rotiroti, co-owner and logistics manager of Holburne Mushroom Farm to talk about the recent donations, discuss the current climate around produce manufacturing and to learn about the farm-to-table lifecycle for mushrooms in Canada.

“Mushrooms are harvested 365 days a year. Every day we pick a fresh crop so there is no ‘not picking the mushrooms’ day. It has to be done every single day. When they’re ready to be harvested, they need to be harvested. You can’t leave them growing while you wait for more sales, because if you leave them, they spoil.”

—Steven Rotiroti, co-owner and sales and logistics manager, Holburne Mushroom Farm 

Donating Surplus Food: An Interview with Holburne Mushroom Farm, Canada

How’s it going?

Steven: These are crazy times for produce in Canada; people are speculating different things when it comes to why. The main one is the general consensus that people are being more money conscious at the grocery stores. 

Is this a sign of the times for food in Canada?

S: I’ve talked to other farmers and wholesalers and they’re all saying the same thing. Whether they’re farming mushrooms like us, or fresh or root vegetables, or fruit, the last four or five months have been a rollercoaster for produce in Canada. There’s been lots of inventory, then no inventory. Great sales; no sales. So far, 2022 has been very slow and I think it’s a perfect storm. 

Everything is more expensive, interest rates are going up, gas is ridiculous, as are food prices. We’re not really affected by climate changes growing-wise, because we’re farming indoors, but all of our inputs are going up. For instance, cardboard has more than doubled in price over the last year—that’s how we package and ship our mushrooms to our distributors. When gas or diesel prices go up then our carrier rates go up. So on. Everybody feels it.

Mind you, the mushroom industry tends to fluctuate and the summer is one of our slow seasons, whereas fall and winter are our busiest. 

When Food Becomes Surplus: The Farm-to-Table Story of Surplus Food  

Caption: A glimpse into one of the growing rooms at Holburne Mushroom Farm in Ontario, Canada.

Tell me more about mushroom farming and harvest. What’s the farm-to-table lifecycle of a mushroom?

S: The shelf life of a mushroom is very short – like a couple of weeks. So there is a constant supply of fresh mushrooms going from our farm to distributors and retail stores—and eventually to tables. 

It starts with our own compost mixture that has mushroom spores in it and other good things. That ferments for 10-12 weeks before it’s ready for the grow room where we actually grow the mushrooms. Harvest happens 6-8 days later. We harvest the mushrooms, package them and a day or two later, they go through the rest of the food supply chain. It’s repackaged, branded, shipped and on the shelves within days. Everything depends on how fast people move. It’s a pretty short timeline from farm to table for mushrooms. 

It’s summer, so you’re harvesting mushrooms every day, but people aren’t buying as much because it’s your slow season and these are unprecedented times. What do you do with the surplus?

S: We have three options. One: when we’re coming up on slow seasons, we can predict it and hold off a bit on production. We do this by putting out less compost so that we grow fewer mushrooms, but then we have a surplus of compost. Everything is connected and impacts something else in farming. Two: we can let it go to waste, which of course, does not benefit anybody and is a waste of a product that is still perfectly fine for the market. Or, three: we can donate the surplus to a good cause and put our food to use. 

Caption: Steven Rotiroti, co-owner of Holburne Mushroom Farm

How did you hear about Second Harvest? 

S: Other wholesalers and I were talking about the slow season and these challenging times that are making our sales and inventory fluctuate at unpredictable levels. Someone mentioned Second Harvest food rescue; so I got in touch. I saw the opportunity for us to do something good.

How has donating surplus food to Second Harvest gone so far?

S: It’s been a win-win, actually. We’re all about helping people. We’re a small family business and if we can do anything to help the community or province—or further, depending on how far these mushrooms go—why wouldn’t we? We farmed them to be eaten! 

Plus, our mushrooms are niche, so it’s high-end gourmet and not everybody knows about shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Second Harvest distributes our product to their vast network of food banks, kitchens, and organizations and feeds people who may never have tried our mushrooms before. We’re getting great feedback that people are loving them! So there’s this added marketing perk that we hadn’t considered when we donated the mushrooms in the first place. 

Not only are we getting our mushrooms out there to more people, but we’re also helping to feed people something healthy and nutritious while avoiding wasteful surplus. We can’t complain, but it’s a hurdle we must overcome. We have to adapt. We don’t know what the future brings, but we need to remain optimistic that the market will rebound and sales will start to get back to normal.

“Thank you to Second Harvest and to Holburne Mushroom Farm for this great donation of mushrooms! Now more than ever access to fresh produce is so important for being able to serve healthy balanced meals to the community. We really appreciate it!” 

––Feed it Forward, a non-profit organization in Toronto

Thank you for talking with us (and donating)! Any parting wisdom for your fellow farmers when it comes to donating surplus food?

S: The way that I see it, sometimes, for whatever reason, we farmers and producers have a surplus of products. The right thing to do is to give it to people and organizations who will be able to do something good with it. There are lots of people going through hard times, and we donors should be proud of the fact that we are helping organizations that impact people’s lives for the better.

Learn more about donating surplus food with Second Harvest food rescue.

Caption: The Farm-to-Table Story of Surplus Food in Canada. What happens to food when the supply of a product is greater than the demand?
Saving P.E.I.’s Potatoes: A Truly Canadian Food Rescue Story

Saving P.E.I.’s Potatoes: A Truly Canadian Food Rescue Story

This is the story of how potatoes have the power to connect a country-wide community of Canadians. In 2021, two potato fields in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) were found with potato wart—a fungus that is harmless to humans. This prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to close the Canadian-US border for all exports of potatoes. That left 300 million pounds of P.E.I. potatoes without a home (that’s the equivalent of 5,300 tractor-trailers). Thousands of local farmers and workers, as well as P.E.I. potato importers and buyers, were left in the lurch.

“This decision by the federal government has shocked and devastated our industry,” said Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson. “Now more than ever our farmers deserve our support.”

Let’s put this problem into perspective:

  • 1 in 4 potatoes in Canada was produced in P.E.I.
  • P.E.I. potatoes feed nine million Americans annually.
  • The potato industry contributes $1.3 billion to P.E.I.’s economy.
  • In 2019, 85,500 acres of P.E.I farmland were dedicated to potato production (one acre is roughly the size of a football field).
  • In 2016, the industry generated $48.9 million in taxes in P.E.I; 5,016 full-time equivalent jobs; $240 million in wages.
  • P.E.I. potatoes represented 23% of Canada’s total international exports of potatoes between 2009 and 2018.

Something had to be done. 

Saving P.E.I.’s Potatoes: A Truly Canadian Food Rescue Story
Potato farm images from P.E.I. Potatoes’ Facebook

How Canada’s Surplus Food Rescue Program Saved P.E.I. Potatoes

When the border closed to P.E.I.’s potatoes, we knew there would be an outstanding surplus of 300 million potatoes that needed to be rescued and redistributed before they went to waste. This was during the pandemic, too, when millions of Canadians found themselves reliant on food charities that were struggling themselves to meet the immense food demand across the country. That’s when Second Harvest partnered with the Government of Canada and P.E.I. farmers.   

While our procurement team worked with P.E.I. farmers to find a solution to their surplus of potatoes, our CEO connected with the federal government to see what could be done. The Minister of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Security Fund provides money to the charitable sector to help Canadians access needed food services. The federal program is called Canada’s Surplus Food Rescue Program—and Second Harvest was able to position a portion of funding to purchase and redistribute the surplus potatoes. 

Second Harvest secured $3.9 million from the Canadian government grant. Working directly with the P.E.I. Potato Board, we purchased $2 million worth of potatoes or 12 million pounds of potatoes. The remaining funds were used to cover transportation costs, where trains, trucks, and even planes in a few locations helped move the shipments.

Potato farm images from P.E.I. Potatoes’ Facebook

Delivering 12 Million Pounds of P.E.I. Potatoes to Agencies Across Canada

Second Harvest worked with logistic companies and deployed our own fleet of trucks, using our warehouse for storage, to rescue and redistribute the potatoes. We partnered with dozens of food charities and organizations across Canada to help. 

Here’s a look at some of the logistical feats Second Harvest accomplished with help:

  • 12 million lbs of potatoes rescued and redistributed this year
  • Potatoes are distributed by train, plane, and trucks across the country
  • 3,900 lbs of potatoes distributed in Ontario from January 2022 until end of May
  • 2,120,000 lbs of potatoes distributed to BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba from January 2022 until end of May 2022
  • 1,267,000 lbs of potatoes redistributed to Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and PEI from January 2022 until end of May 2022
  • 79,500 lbs of potatoes distributed to Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon from January 2022 until end of May 2022

Through this project we’ve provided a small revenue stream to support P.E.I. potato farmers and managed to provide much needed fresh food to communities in every province and territory. All of the potatoes were purchased from the 25 Licensed Potato Dealers in P.E.I. that had interest in the program and in total this would include over 50 P.E.I. potato growers. We took great care to stagger deliveries and to not disrupt the market or saturate any regions.

Gratitude for Surplus Potatoes in Local Communities Across Canada

Potato farm images from P.E.I. Potatoes’ Facebook
Potato farm images from P.E.I. Potatoes’ Facebook

“This means our clients will have fresh produce for a long time now.” 

—Chair Bernice McLean, Athens Food Bank, Ontario

“I just wanted to provide you with an update about the 50,000 pounds of potatoes that was provided by Second Harvest to the Dauphin Friendship Centre… The Dauphin Friendship Centre would like to thank Second Harvest for providing the potatoes to our organization, and commend you on how organized everything seemed to be. The potatoes were clean, and surprisingly out of all 5,000 bags, we only found one where the potatoes had spoiled. This speaks volumes to the preparation that was done by Second Harvest prior to the potatoes being shipped to our building.”

—Dauphin Friendship Centre, Dauphin, Manitoba

“Potatoes are such a good staple and thank God for producing them. Also for the generosity of Rotary Brockville and The Brockville and Area Food Bank, so we can assist those in our community.”

—Major Stephen McNeilly, Salvation Army Brockville, ON

“Volunteers and the community got together to help this food bank that didn’t have a loading dock or a lift to properly unload the potatoes. Through effort and determination, they unloaded 25,000 lbs of potatoes by hand in about 2 hours to help feed the community! 

La BASE food bank, Gatineau, Quebec

“Thank you so much for allowing us to be part of the Second Harvest distribution of P.E.I. potatoes to so many groups in need.”

—Rotary Club, Brockville, ON

“Thanks so much for the potatoes. Rotarians Rock! This truckload of potatoes will be used for nine weeks—we go through 100 pounds of potatoes a week! We can’t thank Second Harvest enough for all of these potatoes!”

—Program Supervisor, Laurie Prichard, Loaves and Fishes, BC

“We are a non-profit daycare and this will go towards our Easter Meal and help us due to rising food costs.”

—Kampus Kids, ON

Lac La Biche community in Alberta received 52,800 pounds of potatoes that went to over 25 organizations with the help of over 70 volunteers.

“This project empowered our organization to reach people from every area in Lac La Biche
County, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement, Kikino Metis Settlement, Heart Lake First Nation, Beaver
Lake Cree Nation, and Whitefish Lake First Nation. People of all ages and cultural backgrounds
came to The Great Potato Pickup.

As always it is so great to work with the staff at Second Harvest. The support provided always
organizations like Community Learning to help so many families in remote rural areas. With
rising food and household costs it is so difficult for some to make ends meet. It is rewarding to
keep food and agriculture waste out of the landfills and feed people as well. We look forward
to working with Second Harvest in the future.”

—Stone Soup, Lac La Biche, Alberta
Cooperative Care Centre in Brockville, Ontario, receiving their P.E.I. potatoes
Cooperative Care Centre in Brockville, Ontario, receiving their P.E.I. potatoes

Food Charities and Agencies That Received P.E.I.’s Surplus Potatoes 

Food charities from coast to coast to coast in Canada gladly received the surplus potatoes—and are continuing to into mid-2022. These potatoes are being made into meals by the generosity and hard work of food charity workers and volunteers for families and folks who are in need of a good meal. Here are some of the organizations and communities that received potatoes:

Ontario Food Charities: 

  • Helping Hands (Hanmer, ON)
  • Homelands (Little Current)
  • United Way Sault Ste Marie Algoma (Sault Ste Marie): Each palette was about 2,000 pounds and they received 26 palettes (for an approximate total of 52,000 pounds of potatoes for people of the Sault in need of food).
  • Daily Bread Food Bank (Toronto)
  • Plentiful Harvest (Unemployed Help Centre) (Windsor)
  • Rotary Club Simcoe/Collingwood
  • Rotary Club Kingston/Brockville 19 skids to Community Food Redistribution Warehouse, operated by Lionhearts Inc, Kingston. And 5 skids to Brockville Area Food Bank, Brockville. 

Quebec Food Charities: 

  • Moisson Montréal (Saint Laurent-Montreal) 
  • Banques Alimentaires du Québec (BAQ) (two Locations Quebec)
  • Mission Nouvelle Generation (Brossard)

Saskatchewan Food Charities: 

  • Prince Albert Grand Council  (Prince Albert)

Alberta Food Charities: 

  • Calgary Family Peer Connections (Fort Mcleod)
  • Harvest Hills Cares Calgary (Calgary)
  • Edmonton’s Food Bank (Edmonton)
  • Calgary Food Bank (Calgary)
Wings of Hope for Africa received potatoes from a distribution that Calgary Family Peer Connections hosted and gave them out to families in Calgary. They are very thankful for the donations and said the families receiving them were incredibly grateful.

British Columbia Food Charities: 

  • Central Okanagan Food Bank ( Kelowna)
  • Loaves and Fishes (Nanaimo)
  • Queen Elizabeth Lions ( Delta)
  • Greater Vancouver Food Bank (Burnaby)
Fishes and Loaves organization receives potatoes shipment in BC

Newfoundland and Labrador Food Charities: 

  • Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
  • The Salvation Army Mount Pearl Food Bank

Nova Scotia Food Charities: 

  • Feed Nova Scotia (Dartmouth)
Salt River First Nations community in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories picking up their potato shipment

Thank you to everyone involved across the country. This was a true testament to the outstanding work that we Canadians can accomplish when we set our minds to it and work together.

Read our top (free) resources on how to stop food waste and do your part.

HOME CHEFS: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Kitchen Food Waste

HOME CHEFS: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Kitchen Food Waste

A big part of running a kitchen is managing food and food waste. Chefs have to meal plan, do kitchen audits, make grocery lists, use what they have, and buy just the right amount of food so that there is little waste. This is good kitchen management 101. Reducing your kitchen food waste saves the planet and the budget. At home, we’re all chefs in our own kitchens.

Our home is also where we have the most control over our individual impact on the planet. As experts in ways to reduce our food waste, Second Harvest has written a lot on the subject. Here is a roundup of our top 10 kitchen food waste tips so that we can all be more sustainable chefs, grocery shoppers, and consumers at home.

Top 10 Kitchen Food Waste Tips for Chefs at Home

1. Get to Know Your Best Before Dates

“The first thing that you need to know is that best before dates are about quality, not safety. It quite literally means that the food was best, or in its finest form, before said date. After that date means that it’s beginning its slow decline in quality.”

—Excerpt from our blog post, BEST BEFORE DATES: Everything You Need to Know

When packaged correctly and stored or frozen at the correct temperature, the following best before date timelines are generally true:

  • Canned goods: Last up to one year past the best before date
  • Dairy (and eggs): Lasts up to two weeks past the best before date
  • Poultry pieces: Last up to six months in the freezer
  • Meats (incl. beef, lamb, pork and whole poultry): Last up to one year in the freezer
  • Dry cereals: Last up to one year past the best before date
  • Packaged snacks (incl. popcorn, granola bars and bagged snacks): Last up to one year past the best before date
  • Prepared and frozen meals: Last up to one year past the best before date in the freezer
  • Unopened, shelf-stable condiments: Last up to one year past the best before date
  • Unopened drinks (incl. juice or coconut water): Last up to one year past the best before date

Read more about best before dates here. 

Top 10 Kitchen Food Waste Tips for Chefs at Home

2. Check Your Fridge and Cupboards Often

“It’s easy to push our canned goods, sauces, spices, jarred jams, chutneys and pickles, teas, soups, grains, flours and cereals to the back of our cupboards and forget about them until they’re ancient and ready for the landfill. It takes work and conscious effort to do the opposite—and avoid the cost (to our wallets but, more significantly, the planet) of unnecessary food waste.”

—Excerpt from our blog post, Art of the Pantry: Finding New Inspiration in Your Cupboards

Like any restaurant chef will tell you, a big part of managing a kitchen is knowing what needs to be eaten and when. Do a quick inventory of your cupboards, freezer, pantry, and fridge. What’s the point in buying farm-fresh strawberries if half of them rot in your fridge? Use your senses and eat your way through your kitchen! Better yet, clean out your freezer and stay on top of what’s in there.  

Read more on how to get re-inspired by your pantry.

3. Find Recipe Inspiration 

“Eating the items at the back of your cabinet or freezer shouldn’t be a chore, so don’t make it one. Find a great recipe (foodgawker is an excellent resource) and make a plan to celebrate the ingredients.”

—Excerpt on finding recipe inspiration from our blog post, 7 SIMPLE STEPS to Sustainable Grocery Shopping and Eating Habits

Part of reducing your kitchen food waste is getting creative with recipes that include ingredients that need to be eaten. For instance, if you have meat in your freezer and know that it should be eaten, take it out to unthaw, and spend a few minutes researching recipes that get you inspired. 

Top 10 Kitchen Food Waste Tips for Chefs at Home

4. Meal Plan Based on What you Have

When chefs do kitchen audits, they write down what they have that needs to be eaten, brainstorm recipes that could feature those ingredients, and make a meal plan from there. At home, consider doing the same thing. For instance, if you have canned corn, tomatoes, and beans in your pantry, you could make a hearty soup or tacos or burritos, depending on what inspires you (and your appetite).  

“Depending on how many meals you plan to make at home per day and per week, make a little grid of breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week. Add in the recipes that feature foods that need to get eaten first and fill out your meal plan from there. Don’t forget that some meals could be made from leftovers and spruced up with a delicious salad, vegetables or soup.”

—Excerpt on how to make a meal plan from our blog post, 7 SIMPLE STEPS to Sustainable Grocery Shopping and Eating Habits

5. Shop Only for What you Need

Knowing what you already have and what you need to buy more of can make a huge impact on reducing your kitchen food waste. That way you don’t get to the grocery store and impulse buy items that you already have, which can trigger unnecessary waste. For instance, if you run out of olive oil or vinegar, take note of it somewhere. A running “grocery list” in your phone’s note section is helpful—then tick off items once you buy them. 

6. Know Where and How to Store Your Produce

“How you store your fruits, vegetables, bread, canned goods, and condiments greatly impacts their shelf-life—and your household food waste.”

—Excerpt from our blog post, WASTE REDUCTION WEEK: Curb Your Household Food Waste

Some Did-You-Knows About How to Store Food at Home: 

  • Some fruits like apples, bananas, tomatoes, and avocados give off ethylene which speeds up the ripening and spoilage of other produce. Store them in sealed bags. 
  • Store anything that will wilt (root vegetables, greens, peppers, cucumbers and so on) in high humidity drawers. Tip: some fridges will have an image of vegetables on this drawer.
  • Keep fruits and citruses in low humidity drawers to avoid rot or mould. Tip: some fridges will have an image of fruits on the low-humidity drawer. 
  • Store potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions in cool, dry, dark cupboards, not the fridge. Tip: keep potatoes and onions apart from each other. 

Learn more about properly storing fruits and vegetables at home

Top 10 Kitchen Food Waste Tips for Chefs at Home

7. Spend Time Cooking at Home

“Give yourself the space and time to cook. Figure out what you need to make the experience enjoyable and make it happen. This may be finding inspiration in cookbooks, recipes online or watching how-to videos—or it could be decluttering your kitchen or just scheduling enough time after work to cook.”

—Excerpt from our blog post, What Modern Eating Habits Can Learn From Past Generations

It takes time, work, effort, and love to prepare a meal from scratch. But the benefits are endless. The meal is often more nutritious, healthy, and delicious, plus it reminds us to value our ingredients and food. Making our own meals forces us to understand how our food got to our plates. Hopefully, all of this helps us to think twice about food waste. 

8. Save Your Kitchen Leftovers

“Find ways to spruce [your leftovers] up. For example, if you’ve made pasta, consider eating it two days from now (so that you didn’t just have it—boring!) and make a side salad or saute vegetables to make it different. If you know that you’re not going to eat the leftovers immediately, freeze them instead.” 

—Excerpt from our blog post, What Modern Eating Habits Can Learn From Past Generations

Once you’ve put time, effort, and money into doing a kitchen audit, meal planning, grocery shopping, and preparing a meal, the last thing you’re going to want to do is waste your leftovers. Save them for lunch another day and beef them up with other ingredients that need to be eaten. 

9. Re-Use and Compost Your Kitchen Food Waste 

Let’s think about creative kitchen hacks to reduce the food waste that we’ve become so accustomed to in our homes. Let’s challenge ourselves to reduce our food waste in our home kitchens—and see how this seemingly small step can make a big impact on a daily basis.”

—Excerpt from 10 Clever & Easy Kitchen Hacks to Reduce Your Home’s Food Waste

Some food waste is unavoidable, like carrot tops, onion skins, bones, and so on. Some other kitchen food waste is avoidable, like tossing wilted produce, ugly vegetables, or blemished fruit. It’s up to us chefs at home to get creative with what we do with all of our food waste. For instance, all of the unavoidable food waste mentioned above could make delicious soup stock and then go into the compost, rather than the landfill. Likewise, blemished, ugly, or wilted produce is still edible and nutritious—we just have to get a bit more creative with how we prepare it. 

10. Support Local Food Waste Rescue and Reduction Causes

Communities across Canada are doing inspirational work to reduce, rescue, and redistribute food waste. Take the City of Toronto, for instance. The City of Toronto’s Waste Reduction Community Grants program awarded Second Harvest a grant in 2021 to support our innovative food rescue and reduction efforts. Using this funding award, Second Harvest developed and delivered a training program to help people learn how to reduce waste in their homes.

With this grant award, Second Harvest designed a food waste reduction workshop and conducted 10 training sessions that were attended by 241 people living in Toronto. We developed a “train-the-trainer” guide for teachers, mentors, and anyone who trains others on how to reduce waste. This launched alongside a workshop that had over 100 people join in. Second Harvest also conducted in-depth food waste audits that measured waste volumes in five Toronto-based community groups to help them reduce their waste—and spending and impact as a result.  

Second Harvest is grateful to the City of Toronto for providing this grant that helped us share our knowledge and best practices with others.

Learn more about the importance of reducing our food waste. Together, we’ve got this! 

What is Surplus Edible Food (and Why Should You Care)?

What is Surplus Edible Food (and Why Should You Care)?

Surplus is an amount that is more than what is needed. It’s an excess of supply over demand. Surplus food then, based on this definition, is the quantity of food that we grow or make that exceeds the demand. It is an abundance of food. In a perfect world, we would make just enough food to feed everyone. Any unexpected extra food would be eaten. But in Canada, only 4% of surplus edible food is rescued before it goes to waste and is redistributed to feed the millions of Canadians who do not have access to enough food for a healthy, balanced diet. 

Today, you’ll learn:

  • What surplus edible food means
  • The difference between food loss and waste (when it comes to surplus food)
  • How much surplus edible food is wasted (spoiler alert: ~96% in Canada)
  • Why this is a social and environmental problem 
  • What you can do about it 

What is Surplus Edible Food?

Not all food surplus is alike. Some excess food isn’t edible or avoidable. For instance, unavoidable surplus food includes things like animal by-products, like bones, shells, or husks, and the expected or planned food waste that happens often because we don’t eat every part of some foods. If you make stock and throw out the cooked vegetables, that is planned surplus. 

Avoidable food loss and waste is surplus edible food that could have been eaten but for various reasons it was wasted. It’s surplus edible food that is still good, healthy, and nourishing to eat. This could be unsold food like unharvested produce, items past their best-before date, or food left to go bad.  

What is Surplus Edible Food (and Why Should You Care)?

Examples of Surplus Edible Food Loss

By now, you may have noticed that we say food loss and waste. That’s because there’s a difference, even though they’re often lumped together as simply food waste. Food loss happens during production, post-harvest, and processing and manufacturing. Some of this is unavoidable, like mentioned earlier, but some of it is avoidable. 

Some examples of avoidable surplus edible food loss are when too much milk is produced and there isn’t a market or demand for it and so it goes down the drain post-production. Or if orders are cancelled after farmers already planted and grew the crops—and they can’t find a last-minute buyer for it—that food is lost on the farm. If a manufacturer makes too much of a product and exceeds their contracted amount with distributors, that food is now surplus edible food loss. Same with unexpected labour shortages that result in produce going bad before it could be harvested or processed. 

What is Surplus Edible Food (and Why Should You Care)?
Caption: Food loss and food waste along the food supply chain from Second Harvest’s The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste.

Examples of Surplus Edible Food Waste

Fast-forward along the food chain are distributors, retailers like grocers, and hotels, restaurants, institutions, and consumers (ie. homes). Food waste happens here.

An example food waste is perfectly good day-old bread or pastries that don’t sell and go to waste. Blemished and imperfect fruit, wilted greens, “ugly” vegetables, or items that were too close to or past their best-before dates are other examples. Good food that goes to waste by anyone, from distributors, delivery trucks, grocers, restaurants, or us at home, is avoidable food waste.

How Much Surplus Edible Food is Lost or Wasted?

In our 2022 ground-breaking report, Wasted Opportunity, Second Harvest discovered just how much surplus edible food is being lost and wasted. 

Canada’s food industry produces 3.2 million metric tonnes of surplus edible food each year. Of that deliciously edible surplus food, only 4% is rescued before it goes to waste and is redistributed to people who need it. 

That means that 96% of surplus edible food goes to waste in Canada. This surplus food isn’t rescued or redistributed to help feed the millions of Canadians who experience food insecurity every day.  

Renewing the value of food

Mind you, 96% is a conservative estimate based on what 127,177 surveyed could-be surplus food donor businesses believe is edible surplus that they might donate. This is not necessarily what is actually edible but they are not inclined to donate to food rescue. The reality might be worse still—and this is just in Canada.    

Why (and How) is This a Problem?

We’ve seen from research that 52 million people can be fed with Canada’s food production, which could be a massive surplus for our population of 38 million. But one in eight Canadians struggle to put food on the table. In Second Harvest’s second report with Value Chain Management International (VCMI), Canada’s Invisible Food Network, we found that there are 4X more food charities feeding those in need than there are grocery stores in Canada!

And we now know that 96% of that edible surplus food produced by the food industry, goes to waste—it doesn’t even make it to those thousands of food charities across Canada. Wasting surplus food is a major social issue. Instead, it can be a miraculous part of the solution to eliminating hunger in Canada. 

Wasting surplus food is a waste on multiple levels, including wasting all of the energy and resources that went into growing, producing, manufacturing, processing, distributing, marketing, and selling the food. It’s bad for business, resources, people, and the planet. Canada creates 56.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions every year from food waste. 

Food loss during production, farming, manufacturing, and distribution

For more reading on the environmental impact of food waste, check out:

We can and must do better. 

What Can You Do About Food Loss and Waste? 

There is hope yet, if we all do our part. In Second Harvest’s most recent report, Wasted Opportunity, we dove into food loss and waste in the food industry specifically. We looked at the types of surplus edible food, where it comes from, and the opportunities or solutions to curb waste. Based on all that we now know, here’s what you can do:

  1. Read the report to discover the five factors that have the greatest impact on the willingness of businesses to donate surplus food 
  2. Learn about food waste with these free resources for Stop Food Waste Day 2022
  3. Learn about Second Harvest food rescue
  4. Do your part at home