03/13/2017 02:03 EDT | Updated 03/13/2017 08:57 EDT

Quebec Food Banks To Receive Unsold, Edible Food From Supermarkets

Food banks and supermarkets in Quebec are leading the charge for better food security in Canada.

In what Quebec’s food banks say is a Canadian first, supermarkets in the province have started diverting unsold but edible food to food banks for distribution to the hungry.

Food Banks of Quebec had been running a pilot project of the Supermarket Recovery Program in the Montreal and Quebec City areas since 2013, testing out whether such a system could be manageable.

Since the pilot project went province-wide in early 2016, food banks have collected nearly $20 million-worth of groceries from 177 supermarkets, and prevented more than 2,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent gases, the Montreal Gazette reports.

Makes distribution possible while food is still fresh

Food rotting in landfills creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times as damaging to the environment as carbon dioxide.

Under the program, food bank staff come around to supermarkets to collect food on a scheduled basis, then deliver it to a central distribution centre where it is meted out to food banks. They've received a $395,200 grant from Recyc-Quebec to help with their costs.

“The idea is that we will be able to do it quickly while the food is still fresh,” Sam Watts, head of Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission, told Global News.

“Where frozen food is required, it will maintain the cold chain of being frozen.”

“There is enough food in the province of Quebec to feed everybody who needs food.”
— Sam Watts, Welcome Hall Mission

All major supermarket chains in Quebec are participating, Food Banks of Quebec says. When it’s fully running, the program will see 611 supermarkets divert an estimated 8 million kg of food per year, eliminating 7,000 tons of greenhouse gases every year.

That is the equivalent of taking 1,499 cars off the road, FBQ says.

Watts told CTV Montreal the pilot project proved management and distribution was possible.

“There is enough food in the province of Quebec to feed everybody who needs food," he said.

Quebec food banks receive 1.8 million requests for donations every month, according to the FBQ.

The program appears to be inspired by similar initiatives in Europe.

France last year passed a law requiring supermarkets to save unsold, edible food for charities. Any grocery store larger than 400 square metres is required to sign an agreement with a charity for its unsold food.

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