The Echo Food Rescue had a record-breaking year in 2023, rescuing 115,000 lbs of food.
Food rescue manager Christina Sturgeon says the jump from 115,000 lbs of food compared to the 60,000 lbs of food in 2022 is a result of raising awareness in the community for the service.
“Just letting people know what the food rescue is about, we try hard to put it out in the community that we're here, but I know there's still many people who don't know what we are or what we do,” she says. “I believe 2024 will be another increase.”
The food rescue started as a way to do good in the community and the environment, where food from grocery stores, restaurants, and farms that is still edible but past the best before date is distributed.
“The best before date is about freshness. It's not about whether the food is good or bad anymore,” Sturgeon says. “We bring that food into our facility and then our volunteers sort the food to make sure that what we're giving back out in the community is good.”
The food is distributed twice a week to anyone within the community and surrounding area.
On average, Sturgeon sees about 300 people come to collect fruits, vegetables, meat, and dry goods.
“We try very hard to get all our food out. We like it when our cupboards are empty at the end of the day,” Sturgeon says. “We don't ask any questions, all we're here for is to rescue the food and find a good home for it on someone's plate.”
Sturgeon believes the food rescue has not only become a source for residents who need it, but for people in the community concerned about the environmental impact of food waste,
In 2023, the rescue took steps to become more environmentally friendly, such as using an energy efficient van.
“It's been a great help to us because our other van was fairly small and there were times when we would get enough food in that we would need to make two trips," Sturgeon says.
Despite the success of the program, Sturgeon is still battling misconceptions of what the food rescue is.
“Our mission is putting the food on someone's plate who can use it instead of putting it into the landfill. I always tell people it's for everyone. There's more than enough to go around,” Sturgeon says. “There's so much food that otherwise would go to waste.”
It's not possible to only keep the food for people who are in real need, because there isn’t enough space to store it.
“This food is food that needs to go on your plate today. We can't save it,” Sturgeon says. “There's so much food here that there's definitely no reason for anyone not to come just because of their misconceptions.”
The food rescue was one of the Echo Lacombe Association Boards largest projects and took a lot of upfront work to get to this point, President of the Echo Lacombe Association Board Jared Reich says.
Director of Community Services with the City of Lacombe Guy Lapointe explains that Echo Lacombe was the lead organization to get the food rescue up and running.
“People were seeing echo energy powers the food rescue and the food rescue kind of powers echo energy now,” Lapointe says. “There was a really cool symbiotic relationship that developed because of the work that we were doing, so because of that, we now have more dollars to invest in other community projects, but also within the food rescue as well.”
For the new year, Sturgeon is focused on getting more retailers and farms involved in the food rescue, opening more days of the week, and building up the volunteer base.
Sturgeon encourages anyone interested in picking up food or in volunteering to visit the food rescue website.