Federal surplus food program now taking applications

Qualified NGOs sought to move, distribute perishables to 'populations in need'

A federal program to get food to those who need it, using stockpiles of perishables created by the COVID-19-related shutdown of the dining sector, is now taking applications.

The $50 million Surplus Food Rescue Program — which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telegraphed in a funding announcement May 5 — will take applications from “organizations addressing food insecurity” from now until July 15, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Monday.

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The program — to be administered by the federal agriculture department — is meant to move surplus food through the system “as efficiently as possible to help vulnerable Canadians.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the “near closure” of the restaurant and foodservice sectors in both Canada and the U.S., which in turn left producers with surpluses of food and “increased demand from grocery stores alone is not expected to clear the inventory before it spoils,” the government said in a release.

“At the same time, the pandemic has increased the demand for food from food banks and other food security organizations in communities across Canada.”

Bibeau said last week the government had already started to work on the program with businesses that have surpluses they can offer to food bank networks.

The program is to back the “purchase, processing, transportation and redistribution of surplus food… that may be fresh, frozen inventory or in need of further processing due to its highly perishable nature.”

Surplus commodities eligible for the program can include foods in fresh form as well as those that need to be processed and packaged into “shelf-stable” products for storage or distribution.

Surplus foods, once processed, must be donated and are not to be resold, AAFC added.

Applicants can include not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, such as industry groups, processors, distributors, food serving agencies, regional and municipal governments, schools, school boards and other agencies.

But applicants must also “demonstrate an ability to handle the full logistical requirements for acquiring, processing, transporting and ensuring shelf-life stability of surplus commodities and delivery to organizations serving vulnerable populations.”

The program is meant to address “urgent, high-volume, highly perishable surplus products falling under horticulture, meat and fish and seafood,” the government said.

“Priority consideration for surplus commodities that have immediate risk of loss will be determined first,” the government said. It gave potatoes and “some aquaculture products” as examples of goods that “need immediate processing or will be lost or destroyed.”

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said it will take an “inclusive and challenge-based approach” with applicants.

Contributions from the program will be paid out to organizations which, among other criteria, can “acquire and move the most surplus product.” Applicants will need to identify the amount to be moved.

Applicants must also show they have the “most cost-effective approach” in acquiring food — for example, at or below the cost of production, or through donations where possible. They’ll also have to show they can provide the most cost-effective approach — at “minimal cost” — for processing if goods can’t be distributed otherwise.

They’ll also have to show they can be the most efficient at drawing down surplus stocks quickly, from wholesale purchases through to food-serving agencies, and that they have partnerships “already established along the supply chain” — including connections to food-serving agencies.

AAFC, which is targeting up to 10 per cent of all food specifically for northern communities, also said applicants will need to be able to make sure food reaches “the most vulnerable and remote communities” in Canada.

“Nobody wants to see food go to waste, and thanks to this new program, we’re helping the industry redistribute surplus products to vulnerable, local communities where it can make a real difference in someone’s life,” Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in Monday’s release. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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