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Securing national food donations through the Retail Food Program

Every year, food banks in Canada strive to ensure that individuals experiencing food insecurity are provided with fresh and nutritious food where and when they need it most. With the abundance of choices on the shelves of your local grocer, accessibility to these items may appear relatively easy. However, with the increasing cost of living, you’ll find many individuals and families going without.

Between March 2020 and March 2022, seven million Canadians reported going hungry.

At the same time, within the food industry, there is surplus food. Each year, 3.2 million tons of surplus edible food is produced by Canada’s food industry (Grocery Business, 2022). The disparity between these two statistics is striking — this food is considered surplus (or waste) for a variety of reasons, including packaging changes, damaged exterior packaging, nearing best before dates, and over-shipment.

Food Banks Canada has been able to leverage this unique gap, and work with key partners to support communities through the Retail Food Program, since 2012. This program pairs participating national grocery chain locations with community food banks across the country to provide a regular, ongoing supply of essential food and household items.

This program would not be possible without the ongoing partnerships and collaboration between Food Banks Canada, Loblaw Company Limited and Walmart Canada.

“As a Retail Food Program partner and as part of our journey to becoming a regenerative company, we strive to build and support stronger communities across Canada. This helps Canadians live better all while inspiring Walmart associates to give back. We’ve proudly donated millions of pounds of food to this Food Banks Canada program and together, we are making a difference,” says Jennifer Barbazza, Manager, Sustainability at Walmart Canada.

Through this program and our partnerships with Walmart Canada and Loblaw, we’ve seen many successes. Most notably, in the 2021–2022 fiscal year, over 19 million pounds of food was acquired and shared with food banks across the country. With a network of nearly 5,000 communities and over 650 participating retail stores, perishable food like eggs, milk, produce, and meat were put in the hands of food bankers helping people on the ground, and stocked food bank shelves that were running low.

“Community investment is something we take seriously. Our approach works toward making a positive difference in our communities and is driven by our company purpose: Live Life Well®.  Our partnership with Food Banks Canada has allowed us to match hundreds of our stores with local food banks and food agencies across Canada. This reduces waste of perishable food product and provides people facing food insecurity with healthy meals. We’re proud to help make food more accessible to those in need and work toward our commitment to ‘Feed more Families,’” says Alain Brandon, VP, Sustainability, Social Impact and Government Relations at Loblaw Companies Limited.

The ongoing generosity of our corporate partners is appreciated by food banks across the country.

As we learn and grow together, Food Banks Canada and the food banking network feel lucky to have great partners like Loblaw and Walmart! The relationships fostered by food banks and retail partners have had a huge impact on food security in our country.