Cowichan coalition looks to reclaim wasted food

Cowichan Food Security Coalition releases report card for 2016

Redistributing “inglorious” foods that would ordinarily be tossed out at grocery stores and other local food outlets to the poor and disadvantaged is being explored by the Cowichan Food Security Coalition.

Food security co-ordinator Jennifer Dorby said the Coalition intends to approach the Cowichan Valley Regional District for assistance in the initiative, called the Cowichan Food Reclamation Project.

The project would see inglorious foods, such as foods that have just passed their expiry dates but are still safe to eat and fruits and vegetables that are deemed not marketable in stores due to their unusual shapes, be picked up regularly for redistribution.

The proposed initiative comes on the heels of the release of the Coalition’s Cowichan Food Security Report Card for 2016, which is a baseline assessment of food security within the Cowichan region.

The goal of the report card is to highlight the challenges and successes within the Cowichan region’s food system so that points for regional dialogue and action can be identified.

Dorby said a lot of inglorious food in supermarkets goes to waste or compost heaps, and Duncan’s food banks already have a deal with Superstore to collect these foods. The coalition would like to see that expanded.

“With the growing global awareness that we waste 40 per cent of food grown, now is the time to redistribute food that might otherwise go into the landfill,” she said.

“One child going hungry in our region is one child too many and so the continuation of wasting so much food is not an option.”

In order to make the project a reality, Dorby said the coalition will need assistance with the feasibility studies as well as the program’s implementation, which includes acquiring a delivery truck, warehouse, and cold storage and processing facilities.

“We look forward to working with the CVRD on the reclamation of wasted food,” she said.

Among the more interesting statistics collected in the preparation for the food report card for last year is the local unemployment rate is at 5.8 per cent, the estimate of people in the Valley considered “absolutely homeless” is 83, which is up 43 per cent since 2014, and the living wage (the amount a family needs to cover basic expenses) in the Valley is at $18.81 an hour.

“The poverty rate in Cowichan has decreased slightly over the past few years,” Borby said.

“However, the price of food has continued to increase. The food banks are still seeing an increase in usage which we know is helping support people in the short term, but food banks were only meant as a short-term solution back in the 1980s, not a long-term solution.”