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Made in Vancouver is a collaboration between Vancity and Daily Hive. Together, we’re turning the spotlight onto local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are helping to create a healthy local economy.
A sense of purpose and a love for food. Social entrepreneur and Simon Fraser University lecturer Alia Sunderji has combined both into a venture that will benefit the environment and the community for years to come.
Sunderji is the founder of Luv The Grub, a food business that partners with farms and produce markets to rescue bump, bruised and misshapen fruits and vegetables from entering the landfill. The company then turns the ugly produce into gourmet chutneys and spreads through a paid employment training program for refugees.
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Vancity has been supporting people in our communities since 1946. As part of our Made in Vancouver series spotlighting local businesses, we talked to Luv The Grub founder Alia Sunderji about saving fruits and vegetables from waste while also supporting newcomers to Canada. Learn more about what Vancity is doing in your community at vancity.com
“I teach Sustainable Innovation at SFU and I was inspired by my student’s research on how much produce waste was happening at the farm and produce market level in BC,” said Sunderji to Daily Hive. “I wanted to do something about it and decided to upcycle them into value-added shelf-stable products all the while hiring newcomers. My mother and partner are refugees and I wanted to give back to the community.”
Chutneys are a staple in Sunderji’s East African home, so the idea came to her to turn the discarded produce into delicious, homemade chutneys.
Luv The Grub’s products include Blueberry Sage Chutney, Spiced Mango Chutney, Chai Apple Spread. The chutneys and spreads are sold through retail partners, on luvthegrub.com and on Amazon, and at events like holiday markets.
“We make delicious products that are gourmet as well with fusion flavours. We are an inclusive employer and have a strong environmental mission,” explained Sunderji. “We would like to expand our food rescue mission as well as employment opportunities.
“I was inspired by Homeboy Industries which has several social businesses underneath their umbrella brand which are mostly food-based. They hire previously incarcerated gang members and they not only provide employment but also community as well as wrap-around services such as counselling, legal advice, parenting classes, tattoo removal, GED completion support and much more.”
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Since its founding in 2016, Luv The Grub has hired over 40 individuals through its paid employment training program, rescued over 100,000 lbs of produce seconds, and is carried in over 65 retailers in Canada and the US.
“We make great food as well as do good for people and the planet,” said Sunderji. “The more people support us, the further we can go in our environmental and socio-economic missions.
“A profitable business can also have an impact that can be environmental, community-based or even both. Doing good is good business.”