Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society

When life gives you bananas...

Friday, February 1, 2013 - 8:00am

What would you do with 15 tons of bananas? Why, you make banana bread of course...6500 loaves of it!

Last week, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society (GVFBS) received a generous donation of nearly 40,000 pounds of bananas that had been passed on by a retailer due to their colouring. Even though the GVFBS doesn't normally distribute banana's (due to their short shelf-life and fragility), we decided that we couldn't let them go to waste, so we gladly accepted them and immediately got to work sharing them with our community.

We distributed them to our 15 depots and community agencies, however still had a significant amount left over, so we put our heads together and after some collective brainstorming, approached Potluck Café about the possibility of turning them into banana bread for us.The Potluck Café is a social enterprise located on the Downtown Eastside that provides jobs for people living with barriers to employment and cooks healthy foods for sale in its restaurant and catering business.

Potluck Café enthusiastically rose to the challenge, so GVFBS handed over the remaining bananas along with the necessary ingredients and watched as they transformed them into 6500 loaves of banana bread. Making the banana bread resulted in employment for 7 people from the DTES community, so with nothing more than a little effort and creativity, our bananas evolved into a great example of how collaboration can result in greater community impact - preparing and distributing high quality, nutritious food, supporting jobs for local DTES community staff, and strengthening community economic development; not to mention salvaging thousands of pounds of fresh produce that would have otherwise been introduced to the landfill.

The loaves of banana bread will come back to the GVFBS warehouse and be re-distributed to our depots and agencies for people and families receiving food support.

We are so thankful for these kinds of collaborations - in which someone generously donates to our cause, and in turn, we are able to not only support our neighbours at the depots, but also collaborate with local community organizations to support their mandate while fulfilling ours. It is just one example of the partnerships and initiatives we plan to continue as the City of Vancouver advances their work of being the greenest city by 2020(#ZeroWaste) and moves closer to the ban on food waste and food scrap disposal in the garbage by 2015.

According to a 2010 study by the Greg Morris Centre in Guelph, ON, Canadians waste approximately 40% of all the food produced in Canada every year. That's a waste of about $27 billion dollars worth of food per year. The report goes on to say that, 'reducing food waste would also help ease supply pressures that cause prices to rise; and that for most households, cutting the amount of food wasted by half would be more than enough to offset the coming year's price gains.

Besides the produce we purchase, much of the fresh food that is donated to the GVFBS is food that doesn't meet exact retail standards - that means the food is perfectly fine to eat, but might not look perfect. For example, the bananas we received were already ripe, while bananas sold in store are usually a little more green. We also sometimes get oranges that are slightly undersized or aren't evenly coloured - again, still good to eat and use, but not aesthetically pleasing enough to be sold in stores. We lovingly refer to these fruits and vegetables as our uglies, and knowing that while they might have a bruise or two on the outside, they are still packed full of nutrition on the inside and we are proud to give them a home here. By salvaging this produce, we save them from the landfill and more importantly, provide healthy, nutritious produce to the community we help care for.

Doing our part towards preventing food waste isn't new for GVFBS. In fact, our Community Angel Food Runners program saves food prepared in restaurants, hotels, schools, and cafeterias from being wasted as well; 725,000 pounds of food to be exact that would otherwise end up in the landfill, which instead provides 1.25 millions meals for those in need.

By collaborating with our neighbours and like-minded agencies in addition to running our own programs, we're making great strides towards ending food waste in our community. We are excited to show our support for the City of Vancouver's Food Strategy Report and can't wait to see how far we can get in doing our part before 2015.