By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

[email protected]

Food recovery and security for all residents is uppermost on the minds of Columbia Valley Food and Farm (CVFF).

CVFF is a local non-profit established to address several issues surrounding food in the valley. Their mission is to promote, advocate for and highlight the importance of a local food supply, a belief that strongly resonates with community members.

CVFF has worked hard to increase food security in the valley for the last several years, and now the group is laying the groundwork for its most ambitious project yet. CVFF wants to start a food recovery program which would help feed people in the valley, make healthy food choices more accessible, and keep waste food out of the landfill. 

Food waste is a huge problem around the world. In Canada, it is estimated that more than half of all of the food produced is wasted—more than 35 million tons. At the same time, more and more Canadians are having a hard time feeding themselves because of rising food prices. And when waste food ends up in a landfill, it produces methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Food recovery programs target food that grocery stores, restaurants, institutional kitchens and other sources throw out on a regular basis, even though much of it is still edible and healthy. The food is sorted and processed, and then distributed to people in the community. Food deemed unfit for human consumption can be turned into compost or used to feed farm animals. 

“Most grocery stores rotate their food quickly, and that excess food often ends up in the landfill, usually because it has an expiration date that might be quite arbitrary,” said CVFF board chair Sylvia Page. “Some foods are still good even two weeks after the expiration date.”

One need only look down the road to Kimberley to see the major impact that a food recovery program can make. In five years, the depot there has diverted more than 450,000 pounds  (204,116 kilograms) of food. The group relies on a huge amount of volunteer effort to process the food and works closely with social service agencies to distribute it. Local chefs are also paid to turn recovered food into healthy meals. The depot is also open to the general public one day per week.

Establishing a food recovery program is a complex undertaking which will involve a great deal of coordination. CVFF has established a sub-committee, Nourish Columbia Valley, to meet this goal. The Columbia Valley Food Bank, which already recovers food from some stores, is represented on this committee, as are other community members.

CVFF plans to host a public forum bringing together the different groups necessary for a dynamic food recovery system. It will be a chance to learn from other communities, such as Kimberley and Cranbrook that already have successful programs in place.

“In Canada, there are still a lot of people who go hungry every day. We also have many farmers and producers who are producing goods and services that may not be fully utilized,” said Page. “Wasted food ends up in the landfill when it could be feeding hungry residents. Our hope is to establish a viable food recovery system that would benefit all members of the Columbia Valley.”

More information on this topic can be found on the website of Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food recovery organization, and on the Government of Canada’s website at