Emergency Food Distribution Network
Digitizing food distribution to feed more and waste less.
Food waste is a challenge in the best of times. In Canada, 58% of food produced is either lost or wasted, while one in eight families faces food insecurity. At the same time, Canada has no central communication tool to connect food businesses to charities and potential buyers for unsold food.
The situation has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic with disruptions to food supply chains due to a lack of restaurant demand, increased grocery store demands and delivery challenges.
How We Are Solving It
The Emergency Food Distribution Network project is improving and expanding an existing food recovery software platform so it can rapidly connect, coordinate and track the matching of surplus food to organizations who need it most, in a fast, safe and cost-effective manner.
Led by FoodMesh, this project brings together the United Way Lower Mainland, Daiya Foods, Overwaitea Food Group, Buy Low Food Group, Vancity EnviroFund, Metro Vancouver, National Zero Waste Council, City of Richmond, Fraser Valley Regional District, Vancouver Coastal Health, Traction on Demand and Salesforce. The team is building an intelligent marketplace that will link food producers and processors with unsold product to a network of farmers, suppliers, buyers and charities. It will simplify the matching and fulfillment process so platform users can quickly and efficiently manage unsold inventory.
The platform benefits every group using the tool. Retailers will be able to divert unsold food to different customers. Independent food retailers and charities will gain centralized access to heavily discounted food products. Charities will also be linked to a reliable source of food donations. And finally, farmers will tap into regular sources for free animal feed – a less wasteful way of disposing of unused food.
The project is expected to triple the social, environmental and economic impact of existing work being done in food recovery. The food recovered will be the equivalent of 1.5 million additional meals. The new revenues from unsold food will also help lessen the financial strains of the pandemic.
Since FoodMesh started its work, the company has helped organizations rescue the equivalent of more than 16 million meals. The amount of food handled via the network has grown 300 percent so far in 2021, with the network now encompassing 150 food stores and more than 2,500 charities and farmers in four provinces. On top of all that, it has created 11 direct and more than 25 indirect jobs.
Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster is an original co-investor in this partnership, helping FoodMesh to accelerate the scaling of its online food recovery platform to be Canada’s largest online ecosystem of food suppliers, charities and farmers. In addition to industry-led co- investment, the Supercluster’s unique innovation model also provided accessibility to the collaborative technology partners and customers that FoodMesh required to achieve its goal of 1.5 million meals each month.
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