A Halifax group known for delivering local produce at affordable prices is now working to reduce food waste at restaurants through a new pilot program.
Square Roots launched the program two weeks ago — it allows people to trade in a $5 token and get a meal at participating restaurants. Staff use unsold food to make meals for token holders, cutting down on the amount of food that would otherwise go into the green bin.
"This is a way for restaurants to reduce the food waste in their restaurants, so if they overestimate how much food they're going to be selling they can use those ingredients to create a nice sized portion for people with their tokens," said Valerie Caswell, the project manager of Square Roots.
So far, three restaurants — Rys Mediterranean Food on Spring Garden Road, Basha on Inglis Street and, starting next week, Lion and Bright on Agricola Street — have signed up to be a part of it.
Since starting the program, Square Roots has sold 60 tokens.
While all three restaurants plan to accept an unlimited number of tokens per day, two of the restaurants have limits on when the tokens can be redeemed.
Basha will accept tokens throughout the week at any time of day. Rys will accept tokens between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Lion and Bright will accept them between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The tokens are good for as long as the pilot program lasts, Caswell said. A portion of the money made from the tokens goes back to the participating restaurants and some of it goes to Enactus, the non-profit that runs Square Roots.
Tokens can be bought at Saint Mary's University's business development centre.
"You can purchase them to use for yourself and bring them to people in need," said Caswell.
On Saturday, the tokens were being sold alongside 4.5-kg bags of fruits and vegetables at the George Dixon Centre and at Saint Mary's University.
Square Roots started in November 2016 in Uniacke Square and has since delivered more than 2,721 kg of produce to communities tackling food insecurity.
The program employs two at-risk youth full-time.
One of the employees, Cortrell Thomas, brought his three children to the produce pick-up at the George Dixon Centre on Saturday.
"I started as a job placement in the summer time as an OPtions youth and then for the job placement, I got to run Square Roots, me and another partner," Thomas explained.
Thomas said the program has been going well and that he has received a lot of helpful feedback.
"Everyone likes what's going on and how we're doing it in the community and trying to take care of everybody and feeding them healthy produce."