Opinion: Such partnerships are key to tackling hunger at a time when one in 10 BC households have inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints

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over 170,000 non-profit organizations in Canada, a pending recession on our hands and a climate crisis that threatens to make this picture a whole lot worse, are we making non-profits compete for limited resources at a time when there’s an even greater need?

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One might think that non-profits need to compete to make ends meet and have the impact they need and want. To raise funds from a limited pool of donors. To demonstrate impact. To get precious airtime to voice their issues in public and political settings.

Thankfully there are other options. And we need to use them now more than ever.

Take the challenge of food insecurity and the mounting amounts of food waste. In Canada, 58 per cent of annual food is lost or wasted. In Metro Vancouver alone, an estimated 13,000 tonnes of edible food is thrown out in the region’s transfer stations each year.

At the same time, more than one in 10 BC households experience food insecurity — inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints. With inflation, rising food prices, and a growing reliance on low-wage and precarious jobs, people are worried about not having enough food, cutting back on the amounts of food they consume or reducing the quality of their food. This has negative consequences for the health of populations in these situations.

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To complicate the challenge, lost and wasted food contributes to the climate crisis. According to the food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations the carbon footprint of uneaten food is so large that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of GHGs in the world.

To tackle these issues, organizations from different sectors have formed partnerships to create an even more significant impact.

For example, Food Stash Foundation has grown from a shoe-string Rescued Food Box program run out of a basement to rescue about 70,000 pounds of food per month facilitated by a network of partnerships across the non-profit and social sectors.

With a mission to reduce the environmental impact of food waste and bridge the food insecurity gap that exists within our community, they rescue food from suppliers that would otherwise be thrown away due to overstocking, canceled orders, approaching best before dates, or not meeting aesthetic standards. They deliver 80 per cent of that rescued food to community-serving partner organizations. The other 20 per cent of the food is provided to community members through a Rescued Food Box delivery program, pay-what-you-feel Rescued Food Market, and a 24/7 Community Fridge.

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Partnerships are central to this model. Food Stash partners with food suppliers to collect surplus food. This allows for brands like SPUD, Whole Foods, Strong’s Market and Save on Foods to reduce their hauling cost, gain data about their food waste and reduce their CO2 emissions while playing a part in feeding thousands of community members.

food stash‘s 32 community partners collectively serve an incredible 14,000 people each week. These essential service providers like CityReach Care Society, Directions Youth Servicesand DUDES Club incorporate healthy surplus food into their programming so that they can focus their budgets and time on their primary missions like housing, mental health support, and crisis services. food stash also works closely with vancouver food runners to support B Corp foodMesh and the City of Vancouver to amplify a regional networks of food rescue organizations.

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Food Stash will be moving into a new warehouse and workspace in the Mount Pleasant community with walk-in coolers and freezers that can hold 3,500 pounds of food each and will share space and rent costs with other non-profits, including Growing Chefs and Cycling Without Age.

While we need partnerships at this scale, we also need strategic partnerships at larger scales. With four times more food charities in Canada than grocery stores, it is evident that crisis organizations, however collaborative, cannot address the underlying factors driving the sizable and growing problem of food insecurity, including colonialism, systemic racism, and inadequate income. Partnerships among government departments, First Nations, policy-makers, and the non-profit sector more widely are needed to create a society that enables food security and reduces the need for charitable food assistance.

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We are in this together. As a community, as a society — non-profits, for-profits, governmental organizations, and all. Let’s scrap the competition and invest in partnerships.

Carla Pellegrini is executive director of the Food Stash Foundation. Dr Victoria Gay is a social impact consultant.

Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected] the editorial pages editor is Hardip Johal, who can be reached at [email protected]

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