A group of Western students decided that they wanted to start off their undergrad in London by making a difference. So they started reHarvest, a “food rescue” program that links grocery stores and bakeries with charities in London in an effort to combat the waste of food. 

ReHarvest was formally launched in the summer of 2016. The program links food producers and charities by organizing volunteer drivers to pick up the unsold food and drop it off at specific charity locations.

Jasmine Wang, a first-year student at Western, is a co-founder of reHarvest. Wang noted that reHarvest is currently completely booked for deliveries until May of 2017.

Wang and two other friends decided to start the program in May before they came to school. She claims she was first exposed to the reality of food waste years ago in elementary school.

“How this actually started — a long time ago in grade eight — was that I really like donuts and I saw a Tim Hortons that threw out an entire box of donuts and that just shocked me completely,” Wang said. “I was taken aback and I [started] questioning why they didn’t just go somewhere. Obviously we’re not focusing on donuts now, but that’s when I can pinpoint the first moment I thought of it.”

The issue of poverty and food scarcity affects many Londoners. According to the London Poverty Research Centre, there are roughly 26,000 people in London who are unable to gain access to healthy meals. However, despite growing awareness on the topic, the issue has been on the rise over the past couple of years. 

Corey Stanford / GAZETTE
Food waste is a constant struggle in North America. 

As a result, the program has been teaming up with charities that focus not only on food distribution but also food education. Wang points to food education as a crucial life tool that is often overlooked and notes that the consequences of people lacking these skills are generational.

Several grocery stores and bakeries have teamed up with reHarvest including Grocery Checkout, Western Fair Farmers’ Market and Village Bakery. Some of the charity recipients include the London InterCommunity Health Centre and the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre.

According to Shelly Happy, a community development worker for the London InterCommunity Health Centre, the work of these Western students is making a real imprint on the London community.

“We saw this as a good opportunity to be able to not only get food to people that might have difficulties accessing healthy food options, but also giving them more tools and skills to be able to more fully utilize that food,” Happy said.

Recently, the issue of food waste in Western societies has been gaining awareness on an international level. France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing out food roughly one year ago. Instead, grocery stores are directed to donate the food to charities and food banks. 

ReHarvest link producers and charities through the work of volunteer drivers. Wang hopes that reHarvest’s work will grow both within London and also into communities outside of the city.

“I want this to be a generational thing. I want to make this strong enough that even when I do leave university it continues as an organization because I believe this is something that London needs,” she said.

For anyone wishing to contribute to the cause can contact reHarvest at foodrescuelondon@gmail.com for more information.