Stopping Food Waste by Giving to Others

Feed it Foward

Chef Jagger Gordon is a man with a million ideas and one purpose: to stop food waste and food insecurity. Gordon opened Canada’s first “pay what you can grocery store” in 2018. Since then, Feed It Forward has continued to grow, and has even reached war-torn communities in Ukraine.

Gordon is driven by his passion for giving food as well as educating about food. Recently Gordon received an award from the Canadian Choice Awards for best grocery store in Toronto.

Maria Palacios Becerril: How did we reach this point where more than half of all food produced in Canada (53%) ends up in landfills?

Jagger Gordon: It’s simple. We know that 58% of all food manufactured is destroyed before it gets to the supermarkets. But it’s the supermarkets to shops and households that are also the big contributors. And unfortunately, how we got here is because there’s too much food available and everyone is just complacent; everybody wants the “perfect” rather than the “imperfect.” Unfortunately, people want the premium of everything rather than a lesser quality, in part because of inflation in our food prices, and it’s only getting worse and worse. What I still don’t understand is how people throw away one third of the food they buy.

Jagger Gordon
Jagger Gordon

MPB: Why is so much food being thrown away in the manufacturing process?

JG: I’ll give you an example. We had a refrigerator trailer load of beef. The air conditioning had broken down, so it had been out of temperature for two hours. Even though the temperature rose from minus fifteen to three degrees, everything was still frozen, but [they] had to take the insurance fall on it, and destroy it. Fortunately, I received the phone call that, “We have 14,000 pounds of steak do you want it?” They know that it’s still good, but they just can’t sell it. So, this whole weekend I’ve been out feeding people on the streets steak. It’s just amazing to me. You don’t hear about all that goes to waste. When it comes down to the supply chain, this is the challenge we’re trying to tackle.

MPB: You are a chef, you have been a restaurant consultant, and executive chef – so you know the excess of resources firsthand. But not only were you inspired to make a difference in your own practice, you launched a whole organization to change the way all of us look at consumption and waste. How did you get from there to here?

Soup Bar, Feed it Forward
Soup Bar, Feed it Forward, feeditforward.ca

JG: When I opened my first operation, I started noticing the amount of waste. I wanted to do something about that, so I created my first pop-up for people to see the need for this excess food. Then I opened the first pay-what-you-can restaurant, called the Soup Bar. When people started collaborating with me, realized every operation had their own food waste, from bakeries and processing plants to restaurants. What got me deeper into it, was when farmers began collaborating with me. That’s when I was offered the opportunity to open up a 200-acre organic farm. From that, I could calculate how much food comes from our planting, how much actually goes to waste, and how to actually find purposes, to re-purpose or re-utilize and recycle that food. That morphed into the grocery store. I started going to all these big grocery stores and dumpster diving to see how much they’re wasting. That’s when I held them all socially accountable, and said, “I can do something with all your waste every day.” From there, Whole Foods and I became great partners. So, as a chef I got to see copious amounts of food being destroyed, and I just said, “This cannot continue.”

Feed It Forward
Feed It Forward Storefront, feeditforward.ca
MPB: Who is making the (food) donations? Are they younger demographics or older demographics? What does that mean for the success of this project?

JG: The ones that are in the higher brass are now being questioned by the youth that are coming into their systems and their businesses and holding them accountable. And then that’s when they inspire and say, “We know of programs that can assist (with food waste).” People are listening now, because once they learn the Good Samaritans Act 94, knowing that there are no liabilities if you’re donating perfectly edible food, then everyone can walk away without worrying about getting sued, because that’s the biggest thing. The younger generation is rattling the cages of their bosses to make sure they are being socially responsible.

MPB: Bad habits are hard to break. I even struggle sometimes using all the products in my kitchen or not using them enough. And I try my best to not let them expire, plus my mom always said, “If it doesn’t smell, it’s still okay.” I like to think that no one likes throwing away food. Do you think the willingness to commit is an obstacle for many of us? Or is the issue in re-education of home economics?

Feed it Forward App
Feed it Forward App, feeditforward.ca
JG: First and foremost, before (food) gets to that point, it’s called meal planning. It’s your money you’re investing, your time and effort that you’ve worked for all week. Its important to “meal-plan,” and if people don’t know how to meal plan, then get AI, go on Google and YouTube, give yourself the chance to learn something new. Because we must eat literally every day. Know where your money is going and do your due diligence before you shop and never shop hungry. And yes, I think learning how to cook is a key foundation, especially in the early ages. For me it’s always essential and it’s a survival method for your life, because mom and dad are not always going to be around.

MPB: What can the average person reading this article do with your Feed It Forward app right now to start making a positive difference?

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JG: There are two things that people can do in the app. The ones that want to offer food, to reduce their own food waste or they want to share food—which is a great contribution to society and it’s a feel-good scenario. Everyone can be a Food Rescue Hero by offering a bowl of soup that they made, or anything else. The other side of it is ‘I’m really hungry and I’m looking for a meal’, and that’s where I get the most responses of people asking, ‘where is the food?’. I haven’t marketed it enough, but if people knew about it, especially from home, which is where it should be implemented, the app would be beneficial to a lot of people that just want to be socially responsible.

MPB: How are you different from organizations like Second Harvest? Or do you ever collaborate with them?

Feed It Forward
Zero Waste, feeditforward.ca
JG: We are collaborating with them. They are the biggest, and we are the second from peer to peer. So they are on a commercial industrial basis, and we are the peer-to-peer network for them. They have many different operations, but not to the size and magnitude that we’ve created. We get all our statistics from them; they keep track of how much food we rescue through their operational systems. I’m close with the whole crew there, and they do anything and everything for us as an agency-in-partnership.

MPB: How are you generating awareness of the Feed it Forward app?

JG: I have a QR code in the store, I have my Instagram and other social media talking about it. People are using it, but it’s very small. When people get excited by the idea that they can share a meal or get food, then that’s how this will bloom into a beautiful flower. It just takes someone being hungry or someone that has too much food, and giving them the solution for it, which is the app.

For more information about the Feed it Forward app go to: feeditforward.ca/our-app

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