Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helps staff at a food bank assemble boxes of groceries in Gatineau, Que., Friday, July 3, 2020. A new federal program announced Thursday will help direct surplus perishable food to Canadians in need. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ottawa announces details of $50M surplus food program

The federal government announced Thursday details of a program designed to redirect to food banks and community organizations millions of kilograms of perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown out.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the $50-million program aims to deal with large surpluses of highly perishable food created by the pandemic-related shutdowns of restaurant and hospitality industries, leaving many producers scrambling to find new markets for their products.

“This is a win-win,” Bibeau said in a statement. “Not only are we helping producers who cannot sell their goods to restaurants, but we are also aiding Canadians that have had to seek help from food banks.”

According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Canadians said that they live in a household where there was food insecurity over a one month period during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, there were 1.1 million visits to food banks and 5.6 million meals served on average each month, according to government statistics.

Bibeau said 12 million kilograms of food that otherwise would have been wasted, including 12 million fresh eggs, would go to food insecure families. Other products that will be redistributed include potatoes, walleye, chicken and turkey.

Partners in the effort include Second Harvest and Food Banks Canada, and will include more than 100 food businesses and non-profit organizations.

“The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges across the entire food supply chain as well as for Canadians struggling with food access,” said in a statement Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest.

“Funding from the Surplus Food Rescue Program will have positive environmental, economic and social impact by diverting healthy surplus food to communities, instead of becoming landfill waste.”

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