They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, and a new Whistler non-profit is proving that adage with plans to upcycle food waste from local grocery stores.
The Freed Food Society is the brainchild of graphic designer and cook Pol Lapeira Puig and chef Patrick Henry, who have seen firsthand how much food goes to waste both locally and globally.
"The idea came from playing with food and doing some research on the food waste issues of our community and the world in general. We started to find there's a lot of food being wasted, even in Whistler," said Puig, who works as a cook at Olives Community Market.
The organization now has agreements in place with several local grocery retailers to accept the excess produce that is not fit to sell, but still perfectly good to eat. It will be used to create delicious jams, preserves, soups and stews. The canned goods are expected to be on sale at Olives by the end of March.
"The grocery stores waste a lot of stuff, and we're going to be focusing on the fruits and vegetables in the produce section, which are wasted every day," Puig explained. "It's not just expired food, it can be an apple that is a little bit bruised or doesn't look good, but it's still really good to eat."
In a country that wastes $31 billion worth of food a year, according to a 2014 report by consulting firm Value Chain Management International, Henry said it only made sense to explore ways to reduce that waste while giving back to the community.
"This doesn't benefit just one person, like dumpster divers," he said. "If you involve the whole community, which is the basis of our project, then you can help that many more people."
The non-profit also hopes to collaborate with other community organizations on education efforts around reducing, reusing and recycling food waste. The pair is currently in discussions with Whistler Community Services Society and The Point to explore opportunities for collaboration.
For Henry, who has worked as a high-end chef in five countries, the chance to flex his creative culinary muscles using discarded ingredients is something he relishes.
"I'm very excited because it gives me a chance to be creative with the food we'll be preparing," he said. "We may find there's going to be trends or not, and I would imagine that we're not going to see the same products all the time, but I guarantee that whatever it is, it's going to be good."
For more information on the Freed Food Society and its products, visit www.facebook.com/thefreedfoodsociety.
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