Planet Matters is a local column written by Jill Laviolette. Have some thoughts about the column? Email editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish them online and in print. (PIXABAY PHOTO)

Planet Matters: The Loop Program

“Food security has become a huge issue on the North Island”

Since the Loop Program through Save On Foods and various other similar food collection programs have begun, the amount of food being diverted from the landfill is STAGGERING.

Food security has become a huge issue on the North Island. As well, globally. We know that the planet is going through a crisis. Weather patterns are increasingly unstable. Land where crops used to once flourish seem to be battling more and more elements. As human populations increase, food security should be at the top of everyone’s list.

So, what is the Loop Program? Their slogan is ‘Rescue Food, Rescue the Planet’. Finally! It’s nice to see a program and a large business out there helping to divert thousands of pounds of perfectly good food – from going into the landfill, each day.

Instead of going from grocery store shelf to landfill when it’s ‘expired’ – food now goes to the local food bank primarily. It is then sorted into categories such as good for human consumption, good for animal consumption and good for composting purposes. Meats, vegetables, dairy, fruits are all now more readily available to members of the community who access these increasingly necessary services. When these types of items ‘expire” or aren’t selling and go past its ‘best before’ date, they used to go straight to the trash. This unnecessary waste has huge environmental impacts, it’s an attrocious business mindset. And, it’s a waste of precious resources. Mind-blowing, actually.

It’s disheartening to think that this program only just started in recent years. Up until this switch, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of perfectly good food – has been going into the landfill, each day. Each store.

Many levels are involved and benifit from the Loop Program. For businesses it means reducing staff time and costs as well as doing the morally right thing of not just throwing away unsaleable but still nutrient rich, food items. For charities receiving the recovered food, they aren’t spending money on the food, saving precious resources for other projects. It means diverting thousands of pounds of food from the landfill to hungry people, animals, and compost. For farmers growing food, it means a reliable source of free feed for their animals or compost for the future of their soil. For all of us, this means a more sustainable future. We desperately need to think outside the box on issues like this.

The volume of food now going to the Harvest Food Bank for example is astounding. When the Loop Program started at the Port Hardy Save On Foods a few weeks back; many, many totes of food items were saved from going straight to the landfill. Which is now a daily occurence. Also, the quality of food that the members of our community who are accessing the food bank – has gone way up. It went from mostly expired prepackaged foods to an assortment of products plus meats, veggies and fruits.

We know that more and more people are having to go to out local food bank and attend programs like Loaves and Fishes to access food. Grocery store prices have skyrocketed. Work is hard to come by. Our most vulnerable community members mental health deteriorates and physical health not too far behind. Accessing fresh foods when you have very little money is extremely stressful. And, unless you have lived through it, it’s hard to comprehend. Yet, it’s a reality more and more North Islanders and Canadians are facing.

The Loop Program is absolutely steps in the right direction to helping alleviate many of our waste problems. We have growing pressures on our landfills, pressures of doing what is morally right, pressures of thousands of people starving and not able to afford food and yet perfectly good food is tossed in the trash each day. It’s changes like these by businesses and consumers that are going to add up to huge results.

We have to do better. Our children and planet’s future literally depends on what we do now.

Jill Laviolette is a local single working mom. Having grown up on North Island she has faced many challenges and overcome many obstacles. Giving back is the best way to show gratitude for where you live and thats become Jill’s mission. She has recently won a Local HeroAward for Environmental Leadership, is an OrcaFest organizer, The Hub: North Island and Van Isle Coastal and Backroading Awareness. You can find them on Facebook or www.vanislecoastalandbackroadingawareness.ca

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