Food Waste - Part 1 of 2.

I didn’t grow up in the grocery business and was shocked by the readiness at which perfectly good food was thrown away without a second thought. It seemed to be morally outrageous as well as bad business. I’d been raised in families, schools and communities that were careful to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible. My grandparents were from the post war generation and so wasting food (or anything else) at home was simply not acceptable. Goods purchased had value and were to be used entirely, and for the long term. 

It seems that for a while in Canada those wartime values were lost as food and goods became cheaper; their value declined as did their price. We now find ourselves ranked only behind the USA as the worlds largest waster of food, throwing away a shocking 396 KG per capita, costing the country an estimated 30 billion dollars annually. That’s 873lbs for those of you who haven’t made the jump to the metric system. (

That's a disgusting number, in imperial or metric. 

After my first week working at our brand new store store, that was fully stocked but void of customers, I saw first hand the cost that beautiful, full, fresh displays had when you have no customers buying any of it. Business was slow at first. The scale of it all absolutely shocked me, as I’m sure it would you. Wilted kale, bruised apples, soft tomatoes and anything else past its marked “Best before date” filled our dumpsters, day in and day out. 

As a family who got involved in the food business for their love of food and the value they saw in it, this was soul crushing. This was not what we had signed up for. 

Damaged or otherwise imperfect food donations
from our store.
If we were anything like a typical grocery store in our first year, I’d conservatively estimate that we threw away well over $100,000 worth of food - most of which was damaged or close dated but entirely edible. 

Thankfully, in the years that followed we learned much about ordering, purchasing, pricing and “dumbing up” displays so that they’d appear full while only bringing in the amount we would actually sell. This reduced waste and offered fresher daily produce while controlled our labour. In short, we had learned how to run our business, reduced inventory and dramatically increased efficiency. 

With time our business grew and our waste became much more manageable but still accounted for a huge amount of perfectly good food that simply wass’t fit for our retail shelves. Our family lived on this “waste” and so did our staff. Still, there was more. 

After years of trying to donate our imperfect food to numerous charitable organizations without much success, in 2014 we finally found our man. He was a dedicated international Chef  named Hannes Tischauser. Chef Hannes is the Founder of Soul Kitchen, an organization with the stated goal of creating "healthy and vibrant communities by welcoming the marginalized and lonely to the table and into the kitchen."

This guy talked the talk and walked the walk. He carried a steadfast conviction to do good work for his community, save perfectly usable food from the trash and teach others to follow his example.

Check out the next blog to hear Soul Kitchen's story and see how our donations make it from our coolers to the mouths Hannes and his team feeds!


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