News / London

Western University students tackling fresh food shortage at soup kitchen

Two Western University students are out to make sure everyone, regardless of income, has equal opportunity to eat fresh, nutritious food.

It may seem like a simple task: Cooking up well-rounded meals at London soup kitchens. But, unfortunately, it's not, volunteers say.

Much of the food donated to organizations that feed the needy are pantry items — food with a long shelf life, like grains, pastas and canned goods. Fresh produce and fruit, on the other hand, are hard to come by.

Agata Pawlowski and Steve Trudell have noticed, and are trying to change, the problem.

They've been volunteering at St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre for the past few months as part of their nursing studies and are launching Feed People, Not Dumpsters.

It's what the pair calls a "food-recovery initiative" that's proven successful in other places: Build a network of grocery stores and other places that sell fresh foods and are willing to donate items bound for garbage bins.

There's lots of healthy food going to waste simply because it's past the sell-by date or because it's, quite frankly, "ugly," they say.

"A lot of good model programs out there are doing this on a wide scale," Pawlowski said, citing the Second Harvest program in Toronto as one example.

That program started in 1985 when two women noticed a lot of people were going hungry while a lot of food was being tossed. So, they started making regular stops at grocery stores and restaurants asking for unwanted items.

Since then, the organization says its "rescued and delivered" more than 90 million pounds of food.

If the local initiative can find legs, it could make a big difference in a lot of lives, said Bill Payne, director of the St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre on Dundas Street.

At the soup kitchen, which serves about 400 meals a day Monday to Friday, a typical breakfast might consists of eggs, fried potatoes, toast and muffin. Lunch might bring pizza and potato salad.

Payne would love to see a day when fresh fruit could be served with ever meal and leafy greens could take the place of potato salad.

"Ultimately, it’s just about providing options for better nutrition," Pawlowski said.

People interested in helping with Feed People, Not Dumpsters can contact Payne 519-­432-­0660 or reach out on Twitter.

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