Bits and pieces of broccoli on the doorstep, ravens circling overhead, these are small signs that 569 McKay St. is the site of a food diversion program. A bit more obvious is the sign on the door that says “KAPS staple food bank.”
There, Kaien Anti-Poverty Society volunteers collect food surplus items from local stores that would otherwise go to waste. They do this seven days a week except for Christmas Day.
Items from Save-On-Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart are brought to the food bank house, sorted, marked, bagged and delivered to senior citizens with limited mobility as well as people living on low income or no income at all.
|Former Kaien Anti-Poverty Society board member and long-time volunteer Roxane Turnbull marks the barcodes of surplus food items with a felt marker “just in case some tricky people decide they’re going to go back and try to get some compensation,” Turnbull said. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)|
“What goes in the bags depends on what’s available,” KAPS executive director Colleen Hermanson said while sorting seven bags of diverted food for delivery to seniors on Thursday. “We never know what we’re getting. Some days there’s a lot, some days there’s not so much.”
As Save-On continues to roll out its Food Mesh program across B.C., Hermanson is hoping more will be available soon.
While Save-On has provided surplus bakery items and produce to KAPS since they started in 2011, Hermanson said prepared foods are still going into the trash rather than the tummies of people in need, as per the standing store policy.
“I have encouraged the Save-On manager to give us the sandwiches and the other daily-made items that are done in the store and he has said they are unable to give that, it has to go in the garbage at this point, which really doesn’t work for me,” Hermanson said.
“We’ve got a homeless shelter here in town where if you took that sandwich there at 3 ‘o clock by 4 ‘o clock the sandwich would eaten. It’s not going to sit in the fridge anywhere for a couple of days.”
|KAPS board member Brenda Laidley and executive director Colleen Hermanson (right) unload boxes of food picked up from Save-On on Feb. 28 as a deer watches from a distance. “The fruit that’s really garbage, we just put it out for the birds and the deer,” Hermanson said. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)|
Hermanson also noted room for improvement when it comes to workflow.
“We do have some situations where I complain bitterly,” she said, explaining that some days Save-On staff box up potatoes on top of tomatoes. “You can imagine what the tomatoes look like by the time we get them.”
According to Julie Dickson, director of public affairs and corporate services for Save-On, the company will work with KAPS on these concerns when the Food Mesh program comes to town.
Dickson told The Northern View that product availability will be “greatly expanded” as part of Food Mesh and there is a workflow they are “currently evaluating and refining to address the specific needs of different stores and communities.”
Hermanson said she’d like to see similar progress made at Safeway.
“It took us a whole long time to get to them, they came on board about 2016,” she said of the store.
KAPS collected bakery surplus items from Safeway for about a year-and-a-half, but stopped after that.
“The thing that really concerns me is Safeway and their policy because they will not give,” Hermanson said. “They have given from the bakery, but I’m sad to say that they put everything into a garbage bag, so you’ve got doughnuts on the bottom and you’ve got all the loaves of bread on top, and by the time you get to the bottom of the bag the doughnuts and everything are garbage.
“There’s nothing you can do with them. The loaves of bread have got sticky stuff all over them so people don’t even want to handle the bread.”
Hermanson said she isn’t sure why Safeway doesn’t give fruit, vegetables or other needed food surplus items.
Clayton Filkohazy, external communications specialist for Safeway’s parent company Sobeys Inc., told the Northern View that the company committed to further reduce food waste by 50 per cent in January.
Filkohazy said the company has adopted Food Banks Canada’s donation policy and is working to improve production planning and education to closely monitor what gets thrown out at the store level.
Until Food Mesh comes to Prince Rupert, KAPS volunteers will continue doing what they can to make use of food surplus items made available by Save-On and Shoppers.
Sometimes this involves educating locals on ingredients they’re not so familiar with, like jicama — a white-fleshed tuber that looks like a potato but tastes sweet and starchy like an apple.
“The jicama, we could do a demonstration with a couple of them, slice them up very thin like celery sticks or carrot sticks and put out some ranch dip or something and get folks to dip,” Hermanson said to long-time volunteer Roxane Turnbull while sorting through the Feb. 28 food delivery.
“That’ll get them picking up the jicama,” responded Turnbull.
Through its food delivery and education work, Hermanson estimates KAPS diverts up to 90,000 pounds of food and feeds 5,000 people annually.