USask students supporting food sustainability

In Saskatoon, there are people who don’t always have enough food to eat.

A local organization, founded by University of Saskatchewan (USask) alumni and supported by current students on campus, is trying to change that and bring about food sustainability to community groups and people in the city.

“FoodRenew helps to reduce food waste in the city by working with local food businesses to renew their food that would otherwise be thrown away,” said Steven Rau, who graduated from computer science at USask in 2016 and helped found FoodRenew in 2017. “The rescued food is picked up by FoodRenew volunteers and delivered to one of many community groups in the city who put it to use.”

From left: Steven Rau, Jessica Benoit and Tyson Follack.

Muhammad Khalil kickstarted the idea of pairing businesses that have excess food with people and organizations that could benefit from it. Khalil recruited his friend and now wife, Courtney Boyko, and fellow USask students Jessica Benoit and Rau to build a website, and connect with local restaurants and volunteers to fill the gap in Saskatoon. Khalil and Boyko have moved to Toronto, so Rau, Benoit and USask pharmacy student Tyson Follack are continuing the mission.

“Local restaurants want to do what they can to give back and be more sustainable,” said Rau. “On the recipient side, a lot of these places don’t have big budgets to buy fresh produce. We felt like we were filling a gap as both of these groups we are serving needed help.”

FoodRenew started off small with Rau building a website, Benoit helping with design and Khalil and Boyko building connections in the community. They are now working with 15 local food businesses, delivering food to six recipient organizations.

“Going into this, none of us really knew how bad of a problem it is,” said Benoit.

Local restaurants and businesses work with FoodRenew to donate their surplus of raw or prepared food. Volunteers with FoodRenew pick up the extra food and donate directly to community groups.

“All the organizations are super appreciative and thankful for the service we provide,” said Rau.

Since the first pick up in March 2018, FoodRenew is closing in on 10,000 pounds of food saved.

“Seeing people struggle with food security and knowing that people are going without food is hard to see,” said Rau. “Being a part of FoodRenew has given us the opportunity to meet some people, donate food and give back.”

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