WRITTEN BY TRAVIS WINTERWED
The space shuttle Endeavor, with a fully-loaded cargo bay, still weighs less than the amount of food that Harvest Food Bank and Save-On Foods have saved from going to the landfill in 2020. Thanks to their zero waste program, more than 260,000 pounds of food has been reclaimed, with most of that food going to feed our North Islanders.
The zero waste program means that Save-On Foods no longer throws anything out but instead places it into totes that are picked up by Harvest volunteers who then sort the food from the waste.
Andy Cornell, volunteer manager of Harvest Food Bank, estimates that 75 per cent of the recovered food is fit for human consumption, meaning that 195,000 extra pounds of food was distributed to North Island residents in 2020. “The rest goes to animal feed or compost,” says Cornell, “There’s an awful lot of greenhouse gases that are not being generated in a landfill now because this stuff is being utilized in a much more useful manner than letting it rot in a landfill site.”
The extra food means that Harvest has been able to expand their contributions to partners like the Salvation Army as well as to their food box program. It also meant they could expand a new program called Fresh Eats.
“Fresh Eats is a program where we provide food at our front counter in our store, 6 days a week from 10 am – 4 pm. There’s fresh bread, fresh produce, meat, fish, dairy, pretty much everything other than dry goods,” says Cornell. Anybody can drop in and pick up some fresh food. “We provide food to about 40 households every single day, and that’s excluding our monthly grocery program.”
“That would not have been possible without Save-On Foods.”
He adds that Fresh Eats also has “a lot of ready-to-eat stuff, things like sandwiches and so on, for all the folks who don’t have access to cooking facilities.”
Cornell considers the zero waste program to be a boon for the North Island. “It’s good for them, it’s good for us, it’s good for the planet, it’s fantastic for our clients.”
Because the totes have to be picked up and sorted 364 days a year, more volunteers have been needed. Cornell notes that “it’s work that we’re very happy to do but it’s not without a lot of effort. However, as the work load has gone up so has the number of people kicking in to make it happen.”
One such volunteer is Mark Stacey who says that he’s motivated to volunteer at Harvest because “it’s a kind of therapy for me and it’s exercise and it helps out Harvest’s bottom line.”
“I love it. Keep coming back all the time. It really makes me feel useful. I’m old and I don’t know what I’d do without it, especially with the senior’s centre closed for COVID,” says Bob Langsdon, still volunteering at 79. He says he started volunteering to help out manager Andy Cornell. “I met Andy and he’s about the best guy you could have running a place like this. He’s got long days, busy days and I just help to take the heat off him.”
Gord Patterson, another volunteer, echoed his appreciation for Harvest, calling the food bank “a hidden treasure of North Vancouver Island,” and that he has “nothing but admiration and respect for the volunteers.”
Cornell is certainly appreciative of his volunteers. “Without them, this place would close. My hat is off to every single one of them that make it happen.”
If you would like to volunteer your time at Harvest Food Bank, please contact Andy Cornell by phone at 250-902-0332.
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