From left to right: Rotary Club of Lake Country president Dave Colquhoun, food bank manager Joy Haxton, Rotarian Ken Guido and food bank manager Maggie Gareau hold food they can now safely put away with the help of a new pallet stacker. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Lake Country Food Bank and grocery store cutting down on food waste

Save-On-Foods in Winfield is donating much of its food waste to the food bank.

Almost nothing goes to waste at the Save-On-Foods in Lake Country.

For the past week, the store has been donating nearly all of its food waste that would otherwise end up in the trash to the Lake Country Food Bank, as part of the grocery store’s project to end food waste.

Store manager Paul Davidson said so far 200 to 300 pounds of produce has been donated every day to the food bank.

“Any items that are coming up a day before… instead of throwing it out, we’re offering it to the food bank and they take whatever they can out of there and all the produce trim goes to the food bank and they give it to the farms,” he said. “We want to lower our footprint in any way we can to help out the environment.”

RELATED: New campaign aims to tide food waste at home

Davidson said the project will continue as long as the food bank is able to take what would otherwise be food waste.

“It’s a win-win for us because we don’t have to pay for the product (to be) shipped to the dump because it just all goes into the garbage compactor,” he said.

Almost everything is donated, with the exception of rotten foods, Davidson said.

Fifteen stores in Kamloops, Nanaimo, Revelstoke, Kimberly, Lake Country and New Westminster are currently donating between 70 to 80 per cent of their food waste, while 27 stores across the province are completely getting rid of their food waste.

It’s been a good week for the food bank. It recently got a big boost from Rotary Club of Lake Country which partnered with 11 Rotary Clubs to give the bank an $11,700 pallet stacker, which enables the bank to organize its basement.

“It is an expensive piece of equipment and what it does is allows us to unload pallets off a truck which we couldn’t do before, or lift a pallet up to put in shelving so to us it’s a lifesaver,” said food bank manager Joy Haxton.

Club President Dave Colquhoun said half of the costs were covered by Rotary clubs in the Okanagan Valley and the other half was from Rotary Club International.

“We’re amazed by the work the volunteers do and you consider the volume of donations they are processing, over 90,000 pounds of food this year, they’re doing it all manually, so this is just an incredible gift we can give them to make sure they’re working (safely),” he said.

Haxton said the pallet stacker is needed more than ever since the start of the food waste project. The bank collects everything from perishables to food clippings from Save-On-Foods. The clippings are given to local farmers.

“I’m looking for some more farmers. We’ve got some different chicken farmers, a goat farmer, the Kangaroo farm comes to us and then they get what we consider compost,” Haxton said.

Haxton said the bank is looking for farmers as well as volunteers to help sort the food.

In the past week, the amount of food they’ve received has been incredible, she said, and those at the grocery store are still learning and adapting.

“The staff is all excited, my clients are excited, my volunteers are excited… in order for stores to be able to do this, they have to have the infrastructure in place. They have to know the quantity, they know how much they have, they don’t want to turn on the tap and don’t have it go anywhere. We had to show that we have a network.”

The food bank picks up produce from Save-On-Foods six days a week.

The Lake Country Food Bank services smaller food banks from Salmon Arm to Cherryville.

“If we can get it out to our locals in that necessary time frame we do that, we only expand it out further if we can’t use it here,” Haxton said.

She said producers are often afraid to give out food because they’re concerned people won’t buy their food, but “those aren’t the people that are getting the food, so it is more the non-profit organizations and the charitable groups that are doing community work. It’s not going to end poverty but I think it’s really important we provide healthy food to our citizens.”

According to a Commission for Environmental Cooperation report released in April, Canada is one of the biggest food wasters on the planet, wasting about 396 kilograms of food annually.

READ MORE: Canada is one of the biggest wasters of food: report

The food bank has continued to grow its collection of perishable food items in the last five years, with 90,000 pounds collected this year. Last year, 43,000 lbs were collected, 20,000 was collected in 2016 and 5,000 was collected in 2015, Haxton said. The food bank moved to its new located in 2016.

Save-On-Foods also supports the food bank by gift cards, which can be purchased from around the community, Haxton said, and $5,000 has been raised thus far from the cards, which are sold at cost, but a certain amount is donated to the bank.

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