Three lo­cal food waste war­riors

From a For­est Hill techie to a free li­brary foodie

Village Post - - Food - By Jon Sufrin

In the last few years, food waste has emerged as the king of all first-world prob­lems, an ugly re­minder that while some peo­ple live in poverty, oth­ers live in ex­treme ex­cess. Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the City of Toronto, 57 per cent of all house­hold food waste from across the city is ed­i­ble. Na­tion­wide, Cana­di­ans throw away $31 bil­lion worth of food each year. That’s a lot of waste. The good news is that some in­ven­tive in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions are tack­ling the prob­lem head on. These Toron­to­ni­ans are do­ing what they can to en­sure that food goes to peo­ple who need it — not to land­fills.

Free Lit­tle Pantry

In­spired by the pop­u­lar Lit­tle Free Li­brary con­cept — which pro­vides neigh­bour­hoods with free books — Lit­tle Free Pantry is a col­lec­tive of vol­un­teer-built do­na­tion boxes stocked with ne­ces­si­ties such as dry goods, pro­duce, di­a­pers and other sup­plies as avail­abil­ity per­mits. Any­one is able to ac­cess the pantry to take or do­nate what­ever they wish, which pro­vides lo­cal res­i­dents with ei­ther free sup­plies or a con­ve­nient way to share sur­plus items that might oth­er­wise go to waste. What be­gan as a pi­lot project in Fayet­teville, Ariz., has spread through­out the U.S. and is now mak­ing in­roads into Canada. North York res­i­dent Melissa Cas­tan­heira, stew­ard of Canada’s first Lit­tle Free Pantry, at 232 Cedric Ave., says peo­ple of­ten do­nate items that will soon ex­pire, which helps re­duce food waste. She says her com­mu­nity’s help in keep­ing the pantry stocked has been awe-in­spir­ing. “As soon as I see the pantry empty, it’s full again,” she says. “This

neigh­bour­hood is amaz­ing.” face­book.com/lit­tle­freep­antry

Road to Zero Waste

When Rex­dale res­i­dent Laylo Atakhod­jaeva no­ticed how much pro­duce her lo­cal gro­cery store was throw­ing away, she was shocked. “In my home coun­try, Uzbek­istan, ev­ery­thing is re­cy­cled and used,” she says. “I’ve never in my life seen so much waste.” She be­gan re­search­ing food waste sta­tis­tics and de­cided she needed to take ac­tion. With the help of her hus­band, Shabeeb Hasan, she founded Road to Zero Waste, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that as­pires to re­duce waste — and hunger — across the GTA. Their largest ini­tia­tive so far is a se­ries of com­mu­nity fridges filled with sur­plus food from lo­cal restau­rants and gro­cery stores. Ac­ces­si­ble 24/7, these fridges are stocked by vol­un­teers and can be used by any­one who needs food at any time. Road to Zero Waste has set up three com­mu­nity fridges across the GTA: in Park­dale, Rex­dale and Mis­sis­sauga, with more to come. Ul­ti­mately, Atakhod­jaeva and her hus­band hope to pave the way to­ward leg­isla­tive change that will re­duce food waste, as seen in coun­tries such as France, where su­per­mar­kets are banned from throw­ing away un­sold food. road­toze­rowaste.org

Feed­back App

A few years ago, For­est Hill na­tive Josh Wal­ters was trav­el­ling through Rome when a restau­rant owner of­fered him dis­counted piz­zas that were about to be thrown away at the end of the day. Wal­ters thought to him­self, how of­ten does this hap­pen? Very of­ten, it turns out. Soon, he con­tacted his cousin, Ben Wal­ters, with an idea for a mo­bile app that would help con­nect peo­ple with sur­plus food from restau­rants. In 2017, they launched Feed­back, which uses a “smart pric­ing” al­go­rithm that no­ti­fies users of deals dur­ing off-peak hours. Wal­ters likens it to Uber’s surge pric­ing, but in re­verse. The re­sult, Wal­ters says, is a win-win sit­u­a­tion, with users get­ting deals on food, and restau­rants hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to sell what they might have thrown away. “At the end of day, food waste [at the restau­rant level] is just a prod­uct of a larger prob­lem, which is un­pre­dictable sup­ply and de­mand,” Wal­ters says. “The goal is to cre­ate a restau­rant sys­tem in which you can use price as a lever to drive traf­fic at off-peak hours.” feed­back­app.ca

Clock­wise from left: Road to Zero Waste creator Laylo Atakhod­jaeva and hus­band Shabeeb Hasan, stew­ard of the Lit­tle Free Pantry Melissa Cas­tan­heira, Feed­back app creator Josh Wal­ters

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