By Rosanna Shillolo – Special to SUNonline/Orillia
When I began volunteering as a food distributor at the Sharing Place in 2020 I was impressed by the volume of fresh food and meals provided to local residents lacking food security. However, each time I handed out prepared meals, I noticed that they were all contained in plastic.
Since its inception in October 2020, the Meals 4 Change program has distributed just over 30,000 meals in partnership with several local agencies. This adds up to a lot of single-use plastic – way too much.
Nancy Hannah, supervisor of community programs at the Sharing Place, agreed it was time to change to environmentally friendly packaging. She did some research and ultimately arrived at the new and improved sustainable products now in use. Why the change?
“In short, because it’s the right thing to do,” said Hannah. “With the new commercial kitchen at The Sharing Place Food Centre opening this spring, and with a goal of creating over 40,000 meals a year in that kitchen once we are up and running, we could not in good conscience be responsible for putting that amount of single-use plastic into the environment.”
Hannah’s search for containers meeting Sharing Place needs (individual portions, freezer-safe, microwave/oven-safe, and entirely compostable or recyclable) proved to be a challenge. “Several local businesses, including Shine Juice Bar, Lone Wolf Cafe and Crew Catering, who have already gone green, helped us to source suppliers and allowed us to test the products that they found worked for them. In the end we were pleased to partner with Eco Guardian, a Canadian company located in Newmarket that specializes in eco-friendly food packaging.”
The Meals 4 Change program creates soups, stews, sauces, and individual meals using items donated by local groceries stores through its Food Recovery Program. These meals are portioned, packaged, frozen, distributed and then reheated by those who receive them, in either a microwave or oven. This requires containers that are sturdy, transportable, leak resistant, freezer-safe and able to withstand reheating.
“They also need to meet the requirements of the City of Orillia green bin program,” said Hannah. “Eco Guardian had several container options that met all these requirements, and as a bonus they were competitively priced and from a Canadian company. They made the process of switching from plastic to compostable a very easy decision.
“The Sharing Place Food Center strives to be an organization that supports a circular food system. By partnering with local grocery stores and farmers, we are building a stronger food community. By redistributing and sharing their excess meat and produce items, we are diverting food that would otherwise go to waste.”
The Sharing Place and Meals 4 Change Program ensure surplus food items are used and consumed by individuals in the community. When the donations are plentiful, the food is shared with other organizations that reach individuals who need access to healthy food. When all other avenues have been explored, local farmers are next in line who use the leftovers for animal food.
“Environmentally responsible packaging is just one more way we are making those improvements,” said Hannah.
Anyone who wants to share sustainable product knowledge can reach Nancy Hannah at 705-327-4273 x104 or by email at Nancy@SharingPlaceOrillia.org
(Images and Photos Supplied) Main: Eco Guardian Food Containers