Claresholm Food Rescue Tackles Food Waste and Food Insecurity During COVID-19 Pandemic

Food waste and food insecurity are two problems that the Claresholm Food Rescue tackled both prior to and throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. Chanice Tarasoff, Food Rescue Program Coordinator, and Sarah Bruinsma, Food Security Program Coordinator, worked collaboratively with the Claresholm IGA to divert food from the landfill while filling a need in their community.

“We were operating a food rescue in High River since October 2018,” describes Sarah. “There was a huge amount of success and support for the program so we wanted to branch out into other communities,” Sarah explained that the community of Claresholm in Southern Alberta is a bit of a food desert, with not a lot of healthy food options for community members to access, should they need it.

“The grocery store wanted to get on board, then Western Financial Group gave money for the fridge and Communities ChooseWell gave money for the freezer, and off we went,” Sarah explained.

The program did not discriminate on who could access food hampers. In the beginning, they focused on families who were food insecure; however, anyone who registered for the program could receive access.

“Food hampers can often be strictly non-perishable,” Sarah pointed out. “we were able to provide some of those fresh items like yogurt, milk, cheese, fresh produce.”

Often when people access a food rescue, they are experiencing food insecurity. Non-perishable food items that are found in food hampers can be highly processed and lack essential vitamins and nutrients.

“We know that perishables are the most expensive,” explained Chanice. “When we think about growing the community for all generations, offering healthy food is an important first step so they can perform to their capabilities.” Chanice described how program participants got excited about having bananas, yogurt, salad, and fresh sandwiches in their hampers.

“Having access to healthy food helps with that dignity piece, no matter what socioeconomic status you’re in,” Chanice said.

The rescued food for the hampers is primarily donated from the local IGA, in addition to a local colony that donates carrots. During the summer months, the Food Rescue encouraged the community to “Grow-A-Row” in support of the program. Community members were asked to plant an extra row of vegetables in their gardens and donate them to the Rescue. It was a way for the community to come together to help with food insecurity while reducing food waste.

Since the beginning of the Claresholm Food Rescue in April 2020, 61,330 lbs. of food has been rescued and went out in 2900 hampers. 386 families have registered for the service so far.

Winning Communities ChooseWell’s Most Significant Change Award means a lot to Chanice and Sarah.

“I think it’s amazing that it’s a healthy communities award and food rescue is something that can be done in every community,” explained Sarah. “And really, it only takes one grocery store owner to come on board to be able to create a program like this that can really change the dynamics of food insecurity in a community.”  We would like to extend an open invitation to other food related businesses to join our efforts to impact food insecurity and reduce waste.

The program hopes to continue to grow by creating partnerships with businesses in Claresholm and surrounding communities. With a new van equipped with coolers/freezer, purchased with a grant received from Agra-Canada and Alberta Community Initiatives Project funding, the Food Rescue can deliver hampers to clients who have trouble accessing the program in Claresholm, which is welcomed by all those who access the program.