Food waste is a problem but a Coquitlam non-profit is collecting unused food from grocery stores and re-distributing it to immigrants, refugees and people in need at no cost.
A program that started among a group of Tri-City immigrants taking language classes as a Coquitlam school has grown into a major distributor of food to vulnerable families across Greater Vancouver.
This week, provincial officials announced a $50,000 grant to Immigrant Link Centre Society (ILCS) to support their free food program From Pollution to Solution, which redistributes food for people facing food insecurity while keeping surplus food out of the landfill.
From Pollution to Solution also provides opportunities for new immigrants to volunteer with the not-for-profit sector in British Columbia. They get access to valuable work experience in their new country as well as opportunities to connect with their community.
“We are so pleased to receive this much-needed funding from the province,” said Igor Bjelac, director, Immigrant Link Centre Society. “Food security affects so many people in our local community and this funding will help families get healthy and nutritious food in challenging times.”
Over the next 12 months, ILCS volunteers will spend 15,000 hours collecting and sorting surplus food and delivering more than one million meals to individuals and families facing food insecurity. Their efforts will significantly reduce CO2 emissions while keeping edible food out of local landfills.
The program got its start at Vanier school in Coquitlam and now provides access to healthy food for 3,500 people per month at over 25 locations across the Lower Mainland.
Reducing food waste and helping people in need get nutritious meals
The type of food collected and distributed includes day old goods, and foods close to the best before date.
In addition, ILCS accepts donations of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, deli, and baked goods.
Recovered food is sorted daily by volunteers and delivered to families to help with food security. Efforts are made to meet dietary specifications and provide culturally appropriate foods, whenever possible.
“Since 2016, Immigrant Link Centre Society has been gathering usable, unsold food from grocery stores and distributing meals to immigrants, refugees and people in need at no cost,” said Selina Robinson, minister of finance and MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville.
“I commend the volunteers of Immigrant Link and the good work they do.”
Food security is identified as a key issue in TogetherBC, the province’s poverty-reduction strategy.
Since being released in 2019, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has spent almost $26 million on planning and implementing poverty-reduction and food security initiatives in communities around B.C., including First Nations communities.
Also helping with the announcement was Niki Sharma, parliamentary secretary for community development and non-profits.
She also commended ILCS for the important work they do.
“The pandemic and climate emergencies in the province have put added pressure on families and households across B.C….The work Immigrant Link Centre Society does supporting people in need to access healthy, affordable food is an example for us all.”