Program celebrates 10-year milestone as food insecurity and poverty continue to plague Calgarians

The Leftovers Foundation has grown exponentially since its inception and it’s never been more important

By Krista Sylvester | November 14, 2022 |5:00 am

The Leftovers Foundation is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a fundraiser at Annex Ale Project in Calgary on Nov. 15.

Photo: Submitted

It started as a good deed from a Calgary business owner 10 years ago and it’s grown into a provincewide initiative that has redirected more than 1.5 million pounds of food in Calgary alone. 

The Leftovers Foundation Rescue Food initiative began in 2012 when Lourdes Juan noticed how much food was left unsold at a local bakery at the end of the day. 

Not content to let the food go to waste, Juan got permission from the bakery’s staff to bring the leftovers to an organization she knew was serving food to people who needed it. 

“What started with stuffing 40 bags of bread into my Honda Civic has… turned into more than two million pounds of food rescued from the landfill,” Juan says.

The Leftovers Foundation helps divert food from the landfill.

Reducing food waste is just one benefit 

The Leftovers Foundation’s goal is to reduce food waste and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that occur when food is left to rot. That’s why the organization believes in working with vulnerable populations so that unused food can be used for those who need it most. 

The growth has been exponential, says Cory Rianson, who became the organization’s executive director earlier this year. 

“We went from one person filling up their car to now being in five different cities,” he says, adding that the initiative has since expanded to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hinton, and Airdrie. 

“It’s great to join an organization that’s had some history and has been able to do some great work and grow over those 10 years. We’re excited to see what we can do with the next 10 years.” 

Expanding across the province 

The organization plans to continue expanding into new cities, including Red Deer and Lethbridge, and build on the amount of food it rescues each year.

“The amount of food we rescued in 2015 was 1,000 pounds. In 2021, we rescued a million. So, we’ve grown considerably in the volume of food that we’re rescuing and moving through our organization, which means more food in the community and supporting folks.”

That growth has never been more needed, as high food prices and inflation continue to impact more Albertans each year and service agencies are feeling the pressure. 

The Rescue Food program supports these agencies by transporting good, unsold food from local grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants to organizations offering support to hungry Calgarians.

“I think we’re having quite the moment right now in terms of food insecurity and poverty amongst Alberta households. Inflation is just hitting people hard, which makes makes programs like ours all the more important,” Rianson says. 

“And that’s not going to go away anytime soon, so we are focused on how can we rescue more food and different types of food to ensure that there’s more of these resources being provided in the community.” 

Volunteers and community support have helped make the Leftovers Foundation a success.

It wouldn’t be possible without community support 

The organization’s work couldn’t be done without the help of the community, Rianson says. 

“We wouldn’t be anything without the community supporting us. It’s the volunteers and the donor businesses that make this work,” he says. 

“We’ve always said one of the main points of Leftovers is to mobilize the community, give people a vehicle to support their own neighbourhood, their neighbours, their community. It wouldn’t work if they didn’t step up and give that support.”

Juan says, together, the community makes a difference in keeping perfectly good food out of landfills. 

“Whether it be a volunteer filling their car’s trunk with fruit or a restaurant signing on to our Leftovers app to donate their food, Leftovers is made possible by the community,” she adds. 

The organization is always looking for more volunteers who can download the Rescue Food app on Google Play or the Apple App Store and for more businesses to sign on. Calgarians can also donate. 

The Leftovers Foundation is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a fundraiser at Annex Ale Project (4323 1st St. SE) on Nov. 15 from 5:15 to 8pm. There will be burgers, beer, craft soda, a 50/50 raffle, and a silent auction.

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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