Food rescue and redistribution

What you need to know

Improving food rescue and redistribution systems supports our vision of a food system that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

Donating to free and low cost food programs

View a map with free and low cost food programs in Vancouver.

Contact charities to find out what donations they may need.

Food rescue

Food rescue, sometimes called food recovery, is the practice of donating edible food to charities and not-for-profit organizations that is at risk of being wasted by businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, and produce markets.

Food redistribution

Surplus foods that are at risk of being wasted by food businesses can be redistributed through donation or by re-selling it at a discount to discount markets, other food businesses, or to charities and other not-for-profits. 

Re-selling or redistributing food products to other organizations is one way for businesses to offset some of the costs of unsold surpluses and edible by-products. Processors, discount grocers, and not-for-profits can all benefit from buying discounted food.

Tips to make the most of your donation

Always consult with the organization first before donating to find out what food items they need. 

Most organizations operate on very tight budgets with limited resources to receive, sort, store, or use donated food so it is important to only donate food they can use to help keep their costs down. 

Consider the following before your business donates food.

Donate nutritious foods

Most organizations are looking for nutritious food items, such as vegetables and fruits, grains, meat, and dairy products. Avoid donating food and beverages that are high in fat, sugar, or sodium, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, low-nutrient snacks, pastries, and candy. 

Ensure the food is safe to eat 

Do not donate unsafe or undesirable food items such as expired baby formula, open or damaged packages of food, or stale bread. Organizations that receive unsafe or undesirable foods will incur costs to dispose of the items.

Deliver food donations to the organization

Deliver donations to organizations instead of asking them to pick up. This will reduce their transportation costs.

Give plenty of advance notice

Give advance notice to the organization when donating food so they can plan ahead to receive, store, and use the food items, particularly foods that require refrigeration or freezing. 


Industry Food Donation Guidelines

This guide has information on how to start and manage a food donation program and includes advice for different food sectors.

Guidelines for food distribution organizations

Find advice for charities involved in food distribution including information on food access, nutrition, donor relations, and food safety.

Did you know
of Vancouver residents have reported experiencing inadequate or insecure access to safe, healthy food due to financial constraints?