Food for thought: it’s estimated that over half of Canada’s food supply is lost or wasted throughout our food systems, roughly $50 billion worth of food. This is during a time when almost 1 in every 6 Canadians report not having enough money to buy food. Even our environment is affected; food waste makes up almost a quarter of our landfill waste and releases methane. Globally, it is estimated that food loss and waste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Food waste is a big issue that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is working to address it through initiatives like the Food Waste Reduction Challenge that was launched as part of the Food Policy for Canada. Though, an issue this large requires as much inventiveness as possible. Enter the AAFC Harrington Research Farm in Harrington, Prince Edward Island (PEI). This AAFC Research and Development Centre, like many others across Canada, produces thousands of pounds of surplus crops each year – including potatoes – all for the sake of ensuring the continued sustainability of Canada’s agriculture industry.
Many of these surplus crops come from crop rotations that ensure the research farm soils stay healthy and productive. At Harrington, some of these surplus crops go into the compost, eventually turning into fertilizer for the next season’s crop, while others are used as animal feed or made into starch. Even after this, there are still a lot of unused crops that might end up in landfills.
Not wanting anything to go to waste, Dr. Chris Kirby, the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre’s acting Associate Director, teamed up with fellow St. John’s Associate Director, Leanne Wilson, who works with GCSurplus and Food Banks Canada to help surplus crops from AAFC research centres get to charitable organizations that distribute food.
“Any help that we can provide to local food banks on PEI is a win for everyone,” says Dr. Kirby.
In 2022, more than 7,000 pounds of potatoes made their way from AAFC Harrington Research Farm fields to local food banks across PEI.
In the coming months, additional potatoes will make their way from the AAFC potato grading tables to household dinner tables throughout the island with instrumental support from The Upper Room Hospitality Ministry in Charlottetown.
“The partnership that The Upper Room Hospitality Ministry and PEI Food Banks has with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Charlottetown is invaluable to our organization. We want to be a part of the solution to help eliminate food waste in our province. Working with AAFC allows us to continue to meet the needs of our clients by providing sustainable and nutritious food sources, such as potatoes. We are truly grateful for the opportunity that AAFC has provided to us,” says Mike MacDonald, Executive Director of The Upper Room Hospitality Ministry.
As the need for fresh and healthy foods remains, the AAFC Harrington Research Farm plans to continue donations in the coming seasons and hope that their efforts will support local food banks for years to come.
To learn more about how this AAFC research crop surplus donation program came to fruition, read “The donation innovation: Leanne Wilson kick-starts a government effort to reinvent food donation“.
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)
Cover photo: Dr. Chris Kirby, acting Associate Director at the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre