When you hear that close to half of the food produced in the world goes to into the garbage, a typical response might be to reduce your waste at home. For Lourdes Juan the answer was starting Leftovers YYC - a non profit that distributes food that would otherwise go to the landfill, to those in need .
From the moment we met Lourdes, we knew that Leftovers and Trüe Buch would form a great partnership through our shared values. We sat down with her over coffee to chat all things Calgary and all things food rescue.
Why did you start Leftovers YYC?
Leftovers was started because I saw that we desperately needed a solution to food waste and food insecurity. I was at a Cobbs Bread one night with my cousin picking up bread for his church. Cobbs, like most places, won't serve day old food and they had agreed to donate 50 pounds of day old bread. While we were there I found out that they were going to be tossing out 200 pounds of bread that night. I couldn't just sit back and let that happen so I took it to The Drop In Centre and they said it would be gone by the next day.
That night the gears started turning and I began looking into who else throws out food and I realized that it was a massive local and global problem. The thing about food waste is that at some point you have either been guilty of it or have seen it happen. On the flip side of that, most people are also aware of food insecurity. I wanted to find out if there was a way we could operationally take food that was still good from vendors who can't sell anymore and give it to people who are ready to eat it.
Where does Leftovers deliver food?
We deliver around 3,000 pounds of food a week. There are 55 different food vendors that we work with between Calgary and Edmonton and deliver to 32 different service agencies across both cities. The food goes anywhere from the Mustard Seed and the Drop In Centre to smaller schools in marginalized areas for the families that go there.
How big is the Leftovers team?
We are 100% volunteered powered, there is myself and 10 others on the executive team and 155 drivers who make the dream work. We have more people who have done one off pick-ups and deliveries as well. It takes a village to work around complex issues like this one and we are just scratching the surface. Redirecting food is just the start.
Where do you see Leftovers going?
The company wants to tackle the root cause of food waste and food insecurity. For food waste it starts at a policy level. We have engaged the school of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, where we have a student working on a capstone project trying to wrap her head around where we can engage Leftovers on a bigger level. We need policies that say grocery stores and coffee shops aren't allowed to throw away food, they need to triage it in a way so that it either gets brought to those in need, composted, put into animal feed or something along those lines.
What organizations are a part of Leftovers in Calgary?
Out of the 55 we have on our list the big ones for us are Blush Lane, Calgary Farmers Market, and Bridgeland Market. They have been really supportive of the program.
Are there plans to bring larger grocery chains into the program?
Of course! It's a little tricky when you are dealing with them because they view the donation as a liability.
There is something called a Charitable Food Donation Act which states that if you are donating food without ill intent, you can donate it without holding onto any liability. In Calgary all the partnerships we have built were done through face to face interactions and that is hard to do when most larger companies have head offices in other parts of Canada or America. It all just takes time.
How can people get involved with Leftovers?
Everything is online! We have a volunteer sign-up sheet that you can fill out if you want to help drive food to service agencies. We try to make every route less than 20 minutes so it's easy for people to commit to. There is also a place where you can donate money which all goes to funding programs within Leftovers. In addition to that, all of our executive team can be reached by email if you have any specific questions.
50 cents from every bottle of TrueBüch Vanilla Chai sold goes to Leftovers YYC. The money we raised this year went to buy a refrigerated truck. This truck allows them to pick up more produce and dairy and distribute it to those in need as well as larger food donations that can't fit into cars.