A Vancouver non-profit will reach a major milestone this week in its mission to keep food from wasting while helping to feed vulnerable people in the community.
Vancouver Food Runners (VFR) has shared with Daily Hive that its volunteers have rescued over 1 million pounds of surplus food from local grocery stores, restaurants and businesses since its app launched in March 2020.
According to Michelle Reining, Executive Director of VFR, that is equivalent to over 833,000 meals provided to over 100 non-profits in the past two years.
“We work with over 160 food donors, and our food recovery program is scaling rapidly,” said Reining. “A lot of well-known businesses like Tractors Foods, Safeway, and Fresh Prep, are coming on board, which is exciting.
“Food is a critical part of programming for many community organizations. Connecting over a meal helps build relationships and trust. We partner with non-profits such as Covenant House, Directions Youth Services, and Atira Women’s Resource Society. Our food donations help support meal programs, food box initiatives, or direct food distribution to clients.”
VFR uses an app powered by Food Rescue Hero to match food donors to non-profit partners and mobilizes volunteers to transport the rescued food between locations. According to founder Tristan Jagger, the app is free to download and makes the process simple from start to finish.
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“Once there is a match between a food donation and a non-profit partner that would like to receive it, the Vancouver Food Runners app alerts nearby volunteers of the available food rescue opportunity,” said Jagger. “The app guides volunteers through the rescue, providing built-in navigation and delivery verification.
“The traditional model of food redistribution is limiting. Often, food banks cannot take donations of perishable food as they can’t transport and redistribute it fast enough. Our network of volunteers can move fresh food like milk, protein, and produce quickly, often within an hour of being posted on the app.”
Vancouver is the first Canadian city to have the Food Rescue Hero app. Jagger was inspired to launch VFR in 2019 when she discovered how many children in Vancouver go to school hungry.
“As a Mom of four little kids, I often thought about the children who went to school with no breakfast or lunch in a wealthy city like Vancouver,” said Jagger. “Currently, one in seven households in the city are food insecure while one in six children in BC goes to school hungry. Even more unsettling is that 40 percent of all food produced in Canada is wasted.
“Fresh, nutritious food has the power to build health and connect people, which will better our community in the long term. Our aspirational goal is to see zero waste and zero hunger.”
As VFR continues to grow, Reining is thankful to the over 300 active food drivers who pick up and deliver the surplus food to the community organizations.
“It’s definitely been a challenging year, but our volunteers have been amazing. They are so committed,” said Reining. “Our volunteers know our non-profit partners rely on these food donations, and every day we witness them going above and beyond to get this food to our partners and their clients.”
One of VFR’s volunteer food runners is Anna Kam, who discovered the opportunity to help out during the early days of the pandemic.
“When the kids were home from school, I scoured the internet for local volunteer opportunities which were safe to do with them,” said Kam. “Vancouver Food Runners came up on my newsfeed, and I was intrigued, so I signed up for one of their 30-minute virtual Lunch and Learn App Tutorials. It got me hooked.”
For Kam, seeing the amount of surplus food rescued and redirected to those in need is most impactful. The flexibility of being a VFR volunteer also enables her to make food rescues that work with her schedule.
“I recently needed to drop my daughter off at Mount Pleasant library. I checked the Vancouver Food Runner app and saw that there was a rescue available in that neighbourhood. So after I dropped my daughter off, I whipped over to Terra Breads, collected a donation of baked goods and delivered it to SUCCESS Housing. The rescue was completed in 15 minutes and was an efficient use of idle time.
“What a rewarding experience it is to volunteer with Vancouver Food Runners. I am honoured to work with such a passionate, supportive, encouraging and responsive team. They are just a text or a phone call away if I ever need help, and they reach out to share pick up and drop off tips which make for a smooth experience.”
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