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Echo Food Rescue Keeps Landfills Empty And Bellies Full

The group's volunteers distribute 3,000 pounds of food each week to feed about 300 people

If you’re reading this article while eating, consider yourself lucky. 

According to the 2023 Vital Signs report, one in five Albertans don’t have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. 

This statistic speaks to our province’s growing food insecurity. Alberta is one of the most food-insecure provinces in Canada, with about 156,000 food bank visits in 2022. 

An infographic showing food bank use by province in 2015
An infographic showing food bank use by province in 2015 | Food Banks Canada | CBC News

Alberta was among six provinces expected to see food costs increase in 2024. A common misconception is that people who rely on food banks are homeless.

While that may have been true once upon a time, inflation has made surviving a difficult task for all walks of life.

“We’re talking about people who are going out and working, sometimes multiple jobs, but are still having difficulty because they’re not making a living wage,” Susan Morrissey, executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council and co-chair of the Vital Signs committee, told Edmonton Journal

Paying Canadians a living wage is one part of the solution, but reducing food waste is another. 

Almost 60 percent of food produced in Canada is lost or wasted every year. 

That’s over 35 million tonnes of food, 11 million of which could be redirected to support Canadians needing food. 

Almost half of Canadian food waste is produced at the household level, with most food waste being fruits and vegetables. 

Food that ends up in landfills could be used to fill the bellies of those who can’t afford food. Food waste also contributes significantly to climate change. 

Annual food waste in Canada is equal to the emissions of over 2 million cars or almost 10 million tonnes of carbon pollution. 

When food waste rots in landfills, it also creates methane, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.

Methane has a shorter lifespan than other greenhouse gases, but it is much more effective at trapping heat in the environment.  

Tackling Alberta’s Food Insecurity 

Combating food insecurity and food waste in Alberta is not an unwinnable fight, and the fine folks at Echo Food Rescue have proven it. 

The Lacombe-based food rescue group works hard to keep usable food from landfills and redistribute it to the community. 

Some of their most collected items include bell peppers, bread, and dairy products from farms and grocery stores. 

In the last two years, Echo Food Rescue has saved over 235,000 pounds of food from going to the landfill. That is heavier than some of the largest bulldozers

Christina Sturgeon (middle), manager of the Echo Food Rescue
Christina Sturgeon (middle), manager of the Echo Food Rescue | Emily Rogers | Central Alberta Online

As food insecurity rises in Alberta, so too has the group’s popularity. The group’s volunteers hand out 3,000 pounds of food each week, which is enough to feed about 300 people. 

The group doesn’t care who you are – they are open to everyone. All Echo Food Rescue asks is that you bring a reusable shopping bag!  

The group also accepts food donations and encourages restaurant owners with extra food or farmers with less-than-perfect produce to reach out to them. 

“We count on the community members that come and rescue the food as much as the volunteers and the places that are donating the food,” Christina Sturgeon, the manager of Echo Food Rescue, told CTV News.

Over 2 million potatoes and 650,000 loaves of bread are wasted every day in Canada. Echo Food Rescue ensures that at least a fraction of this waste reaches hungry people. 

Thanks to Echo Food Rescue, one customer hasn’t had to buy potatoes or bread for a year. The group is one of many in Alberta fighting the good fight against food insecurity. 

Peko Produce is popular for buying imperfect foods, like three-pronged carrots, that would otherwise end up in landfills. They then resell the foods to customers at a massive discount. 

Alberta has the worst inflation rate in Canada, thanks to insane rent and high electricity prices. 

Where the government fails, community-minded groups like Echo Food Rescue pick up the slack, but should they have to?

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