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Episode Transcript

Kasia Souchen: 00:01 Hello and welcome to 15 minutes to change the world. Where in 15 minutes. You can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it.

Today we look into food waste here at home and around the world. Did you know that 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year? This amounts to $1 trillion of wasted or lost food, those numbers and amounts are difficult to imagine. Put it this way, if wasted food was a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world after the US and China. Just one quarter of all wasted food could feed the 821 million under nourished people around the world who suffer from hunger. So how does throwing out a few leftovers or that lettuce that has gone off affect our community, our environment and the world?

Chef Jagger Gordon joins us today to talk about food waste. He's a renowned chef, founder of feed it forward, a program created to make use of unsold food, otherwise destined for landfill and founder of the first ever pay what you can restaurant and grocery store in Toronto. Thank you for joining us today Jagger and welcome

Jagger Gordon: 01:39 Thank you for having me it's my pleasure. And I'm looking forward to spreading the love and word of how we can make a difference together.

Kasia Souchen: 01:45 Jagger. One Stat that stopped me in my tracks on your website is that Canada throws away $31 billion worth of consumable food every year, which means that 40% of all food produced in Canada ends up in landfill. And at the same time, we have 1 in 7 people living in poverty right here at home in our own country in Canada. So when was the moment that you realized you had to make a change and began your mission to end food waste?

Jagger Gordon: 02:12 So in the beginning, as a single father, I raised an incredible daughter who is a young lady now. Throughout her scholastics I would have sleepovers and then she would start going over to her friend's places. And as my single dad, I would appreciate a night off where I'd be able to relax and have my own time on a Friday night say for instance and, I'd wake up after on a Saturday morning and I would hear a little bunch of little girls giggling in the living room or my kitchen and not understanding that my daughter was having a sleepover at someone else's house. They would just come over to our house or back to our host to have breakfast. And I started asking my daughter, I said, this is great, but you know, your dad kinda needs to sleep in one morning.

So what happened was it ended up just being that my daughter, explained to me that dad certain times have my friends, fridges are empty and I started noticing that there is a food insecurity situation even though if you live in a really good neighborhood, it doesn't even matter about, how beautiful your houses is but on the inside of the house things may be different. I basically opened my kitchen as a revolving door for the all the children in the neighborhood and from that it stemmed into noticing how much food is in need. So after switching careers, I became a chef. We opened up a catering company and I had copious amounts of food leftover and I just wanted to do something with the leftovers and give it back to families in need rather than discarding it because as was stated, you know, that $31 billion worth of food annually that's discarded that's still edible, can feed world hunger times three. On top of that, the emissions that are coming from the landfills is the equivalent of putting over 2 million new vehicles every year on the road.

And so to address that, I started the Feed it Forward programs where we are food rescue system that initializes food rescue throughout the city on many different platforms from the grocery stores or from the restaurants, from the farming aspect, from the food terminals. Wherever food is manufactured, developed, grown or distributed, we are rescuing it. And the wonderful part about this is it's feeding thousands of people a day with a healthier lifestyle. This food that's the ugly fruits and vegetables are primarily perfectly good. It's just not good enough for the consumer, but to the consumer, if it's not shiny and perfectly colored, then nobody wants to buy it. But in turn of that we are rescuing it and feeding other people that could not even afford that beautiful product.

Kasia Souchen: 04:44 The fact that you rescue food is absolutely incredible. It's incredible for the environment. It's incredible for communities and you're literally feeding thousands of people who are in need. You started the first ever pay what you can, zero waste soup kitchen and grocery store. What a concept and so how does that work exactly and what are some examples of change you're seeing in the communities that have one of these shops open?

Jagger Gordon: 05:11 As I rescued food and as I actually acquired a farm with 200 acres that was donated to me, we grew our own vegetables rather than going on the streets and feeding people continuously. I wanted to start a brick and mortar where people can come to us. I wanted to be able to be open seven days a week where people are able to obtain a nutritionally balanced meal continuously and not struggle for the next one. I opened up the pay what you can free restaurant called the soup bar. Through that period of having that open I, we fed between 200 to 300 people a day and also providing them with organic vegetables from our farm to take home to feed their families. Children and single mothers were primarily most of my audience. And seeing that many children going home to an empty fridge shocked me.

So that inspired me dearly of to continue and make this project bigger. And um, I opened up a grocery store, bakery and coffee shop where it allows all walks of life to come in with this food rescue system. So where in, I'm rescuing organic products to nourish the bellies of so many people in the community. So it's a great balance where people can actually afford to pay only what they can or nothing at all. So what we did is now we feed hundreds of people a day through this grocery store concept and what we did was we created a program called feedthefuture.ca where it allows people to order premade meals now with the same product and biodegradable containers delivered to their door. In the meantime, I was excited to announce that we just opened up our pay-what-you-can free restaurant and it into a university and college.

Kasia Souchen: 06:44 So how exactly is that working and why did you decide to go into college and university spaces?

Jagger Gordon: 06:50 We need to see if we can engage the students further and more into their scholastics and not give them the anxiety of knowing where their next meal can come from or even giving them the ability to afford a healthier meal is important. You know, the having a nutritionally balanced meal given into, into a child or a a youth that is studying stomach actually nourishes their brain. I mean mental illnesses, all we have to keep in consideration does stem from the stomach. Also you starve that stomach, you're going to be starving that brain.

And this is what we're trying to do at the college is to allow students up to 900 to 2,000 students a day feast on what they need to to nourish their bodies so they can further their studies and make us happy as citizens. The old saying is you can give a fish to someone, but you also want to teach them how to fish for a lifetime. And through the Humber school program that we started, not only that we're, giving food to the students on a pay what you can or free system, but we're also introducing how we acquire the food, how food rescue systems work, and how they can participate in that program by also rescuing the food, bring it into the facilities and cooking it there at the college. So there's this whole revolving door by not only just handing the food out, but how we get it, how it's being made and how it's being given back.

Kasia Souchen: 08:11 And that I think can be very powerful. It's very similar to some of our work at CARE. If you sort of extract, extract that and put it on a global level with our, specifically our focus on women and girls. So we know that women are in some places 70% of all agriculture is produced by women. So they're growing, they're weeding, they're harvesting, they're selling they're collecting the water, the firewood, um, food sort of falls in the, in the responsibility of a woman. And we know that despite their massive role in food production and security, they're usually the last to eat.

So I know for programs at CARE, what we do is we look at drought resistant seeds in places that are prone to uh, sort of effects of climate change adaptation, different tools and training for women. So a lot of the same parallels of education and also building communities. So we have our village and savings loans program where women create co-op's together and share their food together, go to market together, learn how to balance their businesses off each other and help grow together and help their entire community sort of rise up, which I think is, is very powerful. And food can be the answer.

Jagger Gordon: 09:25 It's time to really start educating every one of what the earth can do for us and the problems that we're dealing with, the emissions that are coming from our landfills, from all this beautiful product that we're throwing away.

Kasia Souchen: 09:37 Your focus currently is the local Toronto area. You're transforming neighborhoods, you're helping feed families. How do you see food waste as not just a local issue but also a global issue. And do you have plans to extend your work outside of Toronto?

Jagger Gordon: 10:20 The Feed it Foward apps going to be launched very shortly as my next project and this app is going to allow the world to showcase where they have free food. Um, and if this app is going to be able to allow people to see and locate where that free food is. Food waste is an epidemic uh, and so as the hunger crisis that we're dealing with and, but we need to have a formula made that can, uh, not band-aid the situation, but actually to eliminate the problem that we're dealing with and I think the problems can be solved if we all just start being educated. So with our platforms and we decided the group discussions and you know, community meetings on how we can help each other in relations to this. That could change world hunger, but how is this done? I think community based programs and addressing the, the fact of how we can educate our youth and starting the cycle over. But if we program our children and our youth now for the future, things will change.

Kasia Souchen: 10:54 I think the education piece is really important. Learning about where food comes from, food preparation, especially in a time of fast convenient food that is less nutritious. What are the environmental impacts of food waste? Lately we see a ban on straws,electric cars are becoming more popular and there's an overall level of awareness about the environment that's rising. How does food waste fit into the issue of environment and climate change?

Jagger Gordon: 11:21 Well, let alone the packaging alone for the uh food waste that's out there. I mean you must remember every, pretty much every product that food is transported in or delivered to a consumer is wrapped or put into some packaging. These plastic, enjoyable, uh, accessories in life don't necessarily have to be there. We can then place them with something that's different and more friendlier to the environment, but moving forward on that the impact that the food waste that's ending up in our landfills and I'm going, it's just going to say Canada alone because you know we are a leading country, that is putting emissions and methane into the atmosphere from these landfills that are enormous. I mean it's the, it's a sad, sad thing to know that we as humans are not focusing on what we can do together collectively on easy note.

Kasia Souchen: 12:19 How can someone at home right now take action? Our listeners might be sheepishly looking into their fridge or cupboards and maybe doing a little self assessment of their own food waste. What are some ways you would recommend that the average Canadian can reduce food waste?

Jagger Gordon: 12:34 When you go shopping, shop on the outsides of the grocery stores. Never over shop don't fill you up your fridges. Let your fridge be empty but your freezer full if needed. There's nothing going wrong with it provided you use it within the three month span if not sooner. We work so hard to put food into our fridge. That's actually our hard earned money that you're putting into your fridge that you've worked for all week long. Now, if you're throwing that food away, that's your money, that money that you've worked so hard for, same it spending it only when you need it. Buy what you need for the next few days and that's it. That's all you need to do. I mean, yes, time. Who wants to go to the grocery store twice a week rather than once a week, but you know what? Why would you not? If you're saving that money, if you're saving that food from the environment, if you're able to feed your family and yourself healthier, fresher food twice a week rather than once a week.

Also, food share, you know you can bulk buy. A lot of people go to these bulk stores and buy so much that they don't need. Well, you know, if you set up a program with your neighbor or with your friends and share that food. I think overspending and buying more than what you need is a primary source of where we need to cut down on, look, start going to the grocery stores and look for the blemished food that might be reduced. The packaging might be off, there might be a tear or something like that. Rather then having it destroyed by it at a discounted rate and uh utilize it.

Kasia Souchen: 14:02 Those are some great tips for our listeners. Thank you Jagger for joining us today for spreading awareness, building community, and helping feed families. It was great chatting with you.

Jagger Gordon: 14:12 It's my pleasure and I look forward to seeing what other greater possibilities we can do together.

Kasia Souchen: 14:16 Stay tuned on Spotify or subscribe on iTunes for more episodes of 15 minutes to change the world.

Correction: The food waste per year was misstated in the original recording. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year.