It’s fall. That means harvest time and holiday meals, but for many people, putting food on the table can be a struggle.
Recently, Loblaw Companies, which owns Real Canadian Superstores and others, expanded its use of the Flashfood app as a way for grocery stores to better market foods that might soon be thrown out, and in turn, help customers save money through quick sales and reduce landfill waste.
The app actually grew out of a pitch on the TV show, Dragon’s Den. Loblaw had started using the app at some of its chains back east before expanding the program to the west in late summer.
“Flashfood is a new program for us that provides customers with access to surplus food at discounted prices. Marking down products before they expire is not a new concept for our stores, but this gives customers a notification of what products are available in their store and an easy way for them to order, pay for and pick up these products,” a Loblaw representative told the Comox Valley Record in an email.
The Flashfood program was added to all Real Canadian Superstore locations in August. Through Flashfood, Loblaw explains, customers can find out what items are nearing the end of their shelf and save as much as 50 per cent, which could help individuals and families facing food security issues.
Maurita Prado, executive director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society in the Comox Valley, says the questions around household food insecurity are complex and are related to poverty and income. She cites meal programs and emergency services through agencies like the food bank as local examples to help people on an immediate basis. The Comox Valley Food Bank states on its website that it serves 2,000 people each month, 30 per cent of whom are children.
LUSH Valley, itself, has programs aimed at increasing access to food while also helping local people growing produce who might have excess supply, such as through its fruit tree program. Other programs are aimed at increasing people’s skills and knowledge around food and access to healthy – and where possible, local – food.
“We’re really focussed on community food security,” she said. “Community food security is more about the entire food system.”
As another example, over the last two years, LUSH Valley has been running a farm gleaning program through which they can assist area farmers when farmers need help with crops.
“In exchange for that labour, we receive any produce that’s in excess,” she said. “It goes to one of 12 social service partners.”
A related issue to food security is food waste reduction. As Flashfood founder and CEO Josh Domingues said while on Dragon’s Den a couple of years ago, “When food gets thrown out, typically it ends up in a landfill, gets covered by other garbage and when it rots, it produces methane gas.”
Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM), which oversees waste management collection and diversion programs, sees the diversion of food waste from landfill space as its best opportunity to meet its target of diverting 70 per cent of waste by 2022. On its website, it notes a partnership between itself, the Village of Cumberland and the Town of Comox on a pilot program for organics collection to help look for ways to cut down on this material.
Last year, CSWM reported that, from a two-week audit of regional waste composition in September 2017, discarded food was the most common type of waste unnecessarily ending up in landfills, accounting for 20.2 per cent of divertable waste.