Becky Schille, director of The Olive Tree, is launching a food rescue awareness program in May after joining Food Banks Alberta in April and Food Banks Canada to share best practices and resources. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
The Olive Tree no longer operates an orphan food bank.
The non-profit charity has joined Food Banks Alberta, the provincial association of food banks, to share best practices and even food resources among its 88 members.
“It’s just really a supportive network,” said Olive Tree director Becky Schille
“We actually went to Edmonton and met with some Alberta food banks and found out there is lots of great support and education and partnering programs, so we applied and we were accepted in April,” she said.
“So just having those contacts has been the best thing for us so far.”
The membership coincides with the launch of an awareness campaign of The Olive Tree’s ongoing food rescue program in May.
“Between Jan. 1 and April 30 we have already given more than 5,000 lbs. of food to our local schools breakfast and lunch programs,” said Schille.
“Our food rescue program is amazing—we pick up thousands of pounds of food that is meant for the landfill.”
Food rescue is the practise of salvaging edible food that would otherwise go to waste from places such as restaurants, grocery stores or dining facilities and distributing the food to local non-profit organizations.
By being a member of the provincial association of food banks, The Olive Tree can add power to its food program with Alberta Food Banks’ food sharing program.
“If the Edmonton Food Bank or Food Banks Alberta comes into a big donation and can’t use it in one city, they will share it with some of the other ones,” said Schille.
The Olive Tree’s food rescue program follows the guidelines of Food Banks Canada, which they also belong to in order to ensure food safety with best before dates.
“Best before date means they can ensure quality at that time,” said Schille.
“It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be good after that, but that’s their guaranteed food quality date.”
Typically, bagged, jarred or boxed foods are good for six to 12 months past the best before date according to Food Banks Canada guidelines.
“I always say a box of Kraft dinner the day after its best before date is still very good,” said Schille.
“There are a lot of people who are hungry so to waste that food when it could be used is too bad.”
Schille said they can repurpose bruised apples for example, into apple sauce for seniors’ hampers instead of it winding up in the landfill.
“It’s also feeding people; those two things are so important to us,” she said.
Schille said the decision to join the food banks networks came about after re-evaluating some of their processes in their new building and how to improve them.
“So one of the first things we did was to look into Food Banks Canada what membership meant, and what it could do to support us,” said Schille.
“We’re now hauling less and moving around less so have a lot more time to re-evaluate what we are doing and seeing what’s working and what’s not.”
Food Banks Canada works with 550 food banks and more than 3,000 food programs across Canada.
Close to 40 per cent of food banks are run solely by volunteers, and the remainder rely heavily on volunteer assistance including The Olive Tree.
“We have lots of volunteers in certain areas, so our free community meals and seniors lunches seem to have more than enough volunteers,” said Schille.
“Our food rescue program, because we are changing and we’re growing, we could definitely use some more people that would be willing to pick up at the grocery stores, restaurants and businesses.”
They are also looking for food prep and warehouse sorting volunteers.