As the pandemic continues to consume 2020, local organizations are trying to manage what appears to be an increasing amount of food waste.

In a survey done by Dalhousie University of Canadian households in August, respondents reported generating 13.5 per cent more organic food waste than before the pandemic.

This has organizations like FoodSharing Ottawa concerned about the impact all that wasted produce will have on food security.

“As an organization, we were created to address the issue of food waste first and foremost. The fact that by doing our work we also have a positive effect on helping to address the issue of food insecurity is a wonderful by-product of our efforts,” said Olga Tkachuk.

Whether food is tossed because of an expiry date, a damaged package or being considered “ugly produce,” Food Sharing Ottawa volunteers collect unwanted food and deliver it to charities and non-profit organizations.

Cooking for a Cause

One of those destinations is The Parkdale Food Centre, which runs a food bank among other services. Its newest initiative is Cooking for a Cause, which involves working with local businesses to get their workers cooking signature dishes, also making use of any remaining goods.

“We just want to make beautiful meals for people. Right now, we are working with 14 local restaurants and making about 4,000 meals a week for 25 different social service agencies. That started with COVID,” said Executive Director Karen Secord.

“They are cooking the same dishes, just for a different clientele, and getting to people who really need it. We were able to employ staff, but also salvage a lot of food and ingredients,” she noted.

Carleton University’s dining services is one of the organizations supporting Cooking for a Cause. In late November they announced a donation of more than $6,500 to help cover the costs of food, transportation and labour.

“We have prioritized social sustainability during these incredibly challenging times,” said Gabriella Carrier, sustainability manager for Carleton Dining.

The university’s kitchen staff pride themselves on encouraging a waste-free environment, actively monitoring the amount of daily waste with Leanpath tracking systems, adjusting information to show the amount of food that needs to be ordered and prepared, addressing the root cause.

“We must invest in a food system infrastructure that makes it more appealing to producers to get their food to Canadians who need it, rather than letting their excess product be thrown away,” she said.

“I have learned a lot about developing long-term solutions to food insecurity [and waste] on a municipal level through The Parkdale Food Centre.”

Foodshare Ottawa’s Tkachuk says she is eager to see more participation in this communal mission and that she hopes to see food waste numbers go down.

“The main misconception is that this food is, well, garbage. And it couldn’t be further from the truth.”