Student partners with Wolfville grocery store to reduce food waste

·3 min read
Emma Grove started Waste Free Wolfville, an initiative that aims to reduce food waste while also providing free food to those in need. (Submitted by Emma Grove - image credit)
Emma Grove started Waste Free Wolfville, an initiative that aims to reduce food waste while also providing free food to those in need. (Submitted by Emma Grove - image credit)

A university student spending a semester in Wolfville, N.S., has partnered with a local grocery store to offer donated food to the community in an effort to reduce food waste.

"Food waste is everywhere and it's an unfortunate truth," said Emma Grove, a kinesiology student at the University of Calgary in Alberta.

"But the other truth is that everyone needs food and to be able to do this for the community — to be able to give community members food that would otherwise be going to the landfill — just seems like an incredible opportunity that I couldn't pass up on."

Grove moved to Wolfville to stay with friends in January after her university classes went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She had never been to Nova Scotia before.

But it was during her 14-day isolation that she hatched a plan to help the community she'd just moved to.

She contacted Carl Oldham Jr., the owner of Your Independent Grocer in Wolfville, to see if he would be willing to donate food that was nearing or past its best-before date.

Oldham agreed to help.

"We're just there to support this initiative because we know the environment's important," Oldham said. "And it's important to our community and it's important to the planet."

With Oldham's support, Grove started Waste Free Wolfville, a "food rescue" initiative that aims to reduce food waste while also providing free food to those in need.

Grove says about 20-50 pounds of food is saved from the landfill each day.
Grove says about 20-50 pounds of food is saved from the landfill each day. (Waste Free Wolfville/Facebook)

About three times a week, Grove visits the grocery store to collect any unsellable food that can still be safely eaten. She often gets bread, baked goods and fruits and vegetable trays.

She then brings it back to her porch, where she'll take photos of the items and post them on the Waste Free Wolfville Facebook and Instagram pages, encouraging people to come grab what they need.

She said the practice is called "food rescuing" or "food sharing," which she first heard of when she lived in Canmore, Alta.

"I had no idea how big of an issue it was until I was there and saw that every week there was enough food waste in the town to feed at least 100 people, which was wild to me," she said.

A whopping 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada — 35.5 million tonnes — is lost or wasted, according to a 2019 report.

Grove said this initiative allows her to do her part, while also helping others.

"Having this in the community helps reduce our waste as a whole and gives people, anyone who needs it really, the opportunity to have some food for free," she said.

Grove has since partnered with Foodsharing Acadia, a similar initiative at Acadia University that was put on hold earlier in the pandemic.

Now, working together, they're able to offer free food to the people of Wolfville almost every day.

Grove hosted her first food rescue on Feb. 22, and has since completed 14 rescues.

All the food is donated by Carl's Your Independent Grocer in Wolfville, N.S.
All the food is donated by Carl's Your Independent Grocer in Wolfville, N.S.(Waste Free Wolfville/Facebook)

"Almost every day that I've done [it], all the food gets taken, which is amazing," she said.

She said each rescue has saved about 20 to 50 pounds of food from the landfill and anything that doesn't get eaten is taken to a local farm for the animals.

Grove said she'll be returning to Alberta in a few weeks, but she hopes the Waste Free Wolfville initiative will live on when she's gone.

She hopes to find a volunteer who would be willing to take over.

Otherwise, the initiative's social media platform will used by Foodsharing Acadia to help spread the word about reducing food waste.

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