Food Rescue looking to put hunger on ice
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Brandon’s Food Rescue Grocery Store continues its campaign to eliminate food insecurity in the Westman region, with the hope that three new freezer units will allow organizers to better store perishable items for the long term.
After officially setting up these large shipping containers earlier this month, John Howard Society of Brandon chair Ted Dzogan claims they’ve already managed to save more than 40,000 pounds of food, with each of these storage units being able to hold around 26 pallets each.
This serves as a massive upgrade over Food Rescue’s previous method of storage, where they would rely on temporarily accessible freezer trailers that ran on diesel fuel.
“These new units are electric, not diesel, which is a huge deal to me,” Dzogan said.
“In the heat of summer it would be $80 a day to keep frozen food in one of those. Whereas our electric units, at our current hydro rates, cost around $6 a day and there’s no messy diesel. There’s no refuelling.”
The Food Rescue Grocery Store began its life in late 2021, with members of the John Howard Society, Prairie Oasis Senior Centre and Brandon Food Council originally setting up shop inside the Blue Door Project to sell perishable and non-perishable food items that were hovering around their best-before date.
While these items would normally end up in a landfill, the Food Rescue opted to sell these morsels at a discounted price, knowing everything would be safe to consume as long as they remained wary of each item’s expiration date.
This project became so popular that the Food Rescue Grocery Store secured a new retail location on Rosser Avenue by mid-2022 and was averaging about one transaction every two minutes, according to Dzogan in June of that year.
Despite all this initial success, the one consistent issue that has plagued Food Rescue organizers was the severe lack of long-term storage, especially since large shipments of food could be dropped off at a moment’s notice.
While the trailers were a temporary solution, these three new refrigerated storage containers are more of a permanent fix and serve as a great stepping stone to set up a broader food rescue support network in Westman.
Dzogan said his goal is to recruit at least 12 groups from surrounding communities, giving them the ability to either pick up or drop off excess food at these units that would otherwise get thrown in the trash due to lack of accessible storage.
“So when somebody says ‘we have food,’ we have a whole protocol set up where … 48 hours later the professional truck is there, picks it up, moves it, brings it to us,” he said.
“We don’t argue about ‘we want this, but we don’t want that.’ We just take it all and we sort it out at our end.”
Dzogan said this kind of community organization is especially important given the sheer amount of food waste that exists in Canada every year, pointing to a 2019 report by Second Harvest that states 58 per cent of all food made in this country — 35.5 million tonnes — is lost.
However, Dzogan believes that food insecurity could be largely eliminated by reclaiming 10 to 15 per cent of that food waste, which is why he hopes these three freezer units are the start of a new food sharing model that can be replicated across the country.
“These are things we can actually do in a community in a short period of two years, three years. This problem that weighs heavily and causes anxiety for a lot of people, we could just remove it,” he said. “This doesn’t require an additional investment of energy. We just have to organize what we already have and get it where it needs to be.”
Brandon’s Food Rescue Grocery Store is located at 719 Rosser Ave. and is open Thursday (3 p.m.-6 p.m.), Friday (3 p.m.-6 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.-3 p.m.).
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson