By: Karissa Ketter, News Writer
Food Stash recently expanded their operations on October 1, 2021, with the opening of the Rescued Food Market. Food Stash is a Vancouver-based organization focused on rescuing food from being thrown away and redistributing it around the community.
In an interview with The Peak, program manager and SFU alumni Mahjobeh Badakhsh said, “We have a dual mission of reducing the environmental impact of food waste but also bridging that food insecurity gap that exists.”
According to Badakhsh, “58% of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. That can happen along any stage in the supply chain.” Food waste occurs anywhere from harvesting, wholesale, grocery stores or markets, or within households themselves.
Food Stash rescues 70,000 pounds of food every month. “We’re still quite a small organization but just for us to rescue 70,000 pounds shows how much food is being wasted and how much more opportunity there is to prevent that waste.” Food Stash collects food from over 20 suppliers, including farms, wholesalers, and grocery stores.
75% of the food they rescue is used for the Food Recovery Program. With their fleet of trucks, drivers collect food from their suppliers and deliver it directly to Food Stash’s supported charities, including shelters and non-profit organizations. They make deliveries every day.
The majority of the remaining food is taken to their warehouse for the Rescued Food Box program. This program allows Food Stash to package 30 pound food boxes and deliver them directly to over 100 food insecure households in the community.
“In 2021, about 20% of the population in Vancouver unfortunately does live below the national poverty line and 1 in 7 Canadians are currently experiencing food insecurity,” said Badakhsh. “A lot of people, when they think about Vancouver, they think of it as such a wealthy city [ . . . ] but surprisingly there is a huge wealth gap in Vancouver and that wealth gap leads to a lot of food insecurity.”
Food Stash supplies food insecure households with fresh produce, meat or meat alternatives, and dairy or dairy alternatives. They aim to provide nutritious food so distribution of non-perishables is limited.
Badakhsh emphasized “the value that we place on the concept of dignity when it comes to food.” She explained that “cultural, religious, or dietary restrictions and preferences” are a priority so families are “really able to create recipes that they’re able to enjoy.”
At the end of each week, the food that is not distributed is relocated to the newly opened Rescued Food Market. This grocery store is located in the Olympic Village in Vancouver. Their grocery store uses a “pay what you feel model.” This means “there is no obligation for anyone to pay. If you would like to donate to our cause and support the organization you can,” Badakhsh explained.
“It’s supposed to be a low barrier option for folks who are experiencing food insecurity [ . . . ] it’s also open to community members who, for example, might want to lower their environmental footprint and reduce food waste.”
Badakhsh discussed her start at Food Stash and how she was inspired to work with the organization. “There was an increase in both poverty and food insecurity in Vancouver as a result of COVID-19, a lot of folks were experiencing financial difficulties.
“Having studied international studies at SFU gave me a really broad understanding of global, economic, financial and social issues [ . . . ] that made me realize in order to have a greater impact we need to first look at our own communities.”
Badakhsh noted anyone at SFU interested in the cause can reach out to Food Stash. “We’re always happy to collaborate and share our experiences and knowledge; our ultimate goal is to support this work in any location and any area.”
More information on Food Stash’s programs, ways to get involved, or utilize these resources can be found on their website.