The food that doesn’t reach the plate

Loop Resource plays a critical role in diverting organic wastes from landfills and provides small farms with alternative feed sources

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Each year, 58 per cent of the food Canadian farmers produce is lost or wasted, equating to 35.5 million metric tonnes (78.3 billion pounds), Second Harvest Food Rescue and Value Chain Management International Inc. (VCMI) say in a 2019 technical report.

These losses occur throughout the entire supply chain, spanning from producers to consumers.

Sadly, much of Canada’s food ends up in the garbage. For example, two-thirds of “Ontario’s food and organic waste is sent to landfills,” says Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“In a landfill, this waste breaks down to create methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In fact, methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”

Fortunately, an organization called Loop Resource helps the food industry divert its waste from landfills while lowering feed costs for farmers.

food waste piles
    Jaime White photo

Since 2014, Loop Resource has partnered with grocery stores to help small farmers get fresh feed for their animals while reducing the organic waste that goes to landfills, the organization’s website says.

“We originally wanted to change the picture of food waste in our community in Dawson Creek, British Columbia,” Jaime White, co-founder of Loop Resource, says to Better Farming. White and his wife Jennifer have a mixed bio-dynamic farm with sheep, goats, heritage pigs and Muscovy ducks.

Now, the organization reaches from the west coast to the east coast and even as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon.

“Our system is working very well, and it has tremendous benefits for the community and their waste disposal infrastructure,” White says.

“If we can shift all of the grocery-driven organic wastes out of landfill systems, we will have a vastly different forecast for the lives of landfills.”

On the retailer side, the group works with Co-op Food, Sobeys, Safeway and Save-On-Foods. Two other major brands will join soon, he says.

In total, Loop Resource provides vegetables to about 3,000 farmers in western Canada.

“We are always making partnerships with farmers. We connect producers directly with the waste products that we’ve found,” White says.

“The farmers let us know what types of animals and needs they have and then we matchmake between” producers and retailers.

When asked about the biggest factor in the success of the program, White pointed to communication. He is in constant contact with all three parties: the farmers, the logistics team and the store representatives.

“The three groups are talking all the time about what we are seeing, ideas that we may have to make things better or things that we would like to try as experiments,” he says.

“That has helped us pick up on little idiosyncrasies and fix small problems while they were still solvable.”

Loop Resource organizers are also committed to educating retailer staff to ensure farmers receive feed of maximum quality.

“The staff at stores go through some intensive training to let them know where the food is going and we also learn about how their stores function so that we can make the system as efficient as possible,” White says.

The Loop Resource team also understands the need to protect all participants. “We protect producers and grocers through our liability umbrella and through our logistics and analytics system,” White explains.

“In addition, any human consumable food will be sent to charities if we're permitted to do so in that region.”

And White has a solid vision for the future.

“As farmers, let’s be participants in the change that we want to encourage. We want a world where most of the food that we are growing is actually going to feed people,” he said. BF

Editor’s note: Before making any changes to your livestock or poultry feeding program, consult with your herd veterinarian and nutritionist.

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