There’s no shortage of canned peas or garbanzo beans at the Moncton West End Food Bank, but chicken, beef, milk or cheese is not in such great supply.
“We tend to get a lot of the crackers and canned items which you associate with the food drives and we get bread and cakes,” said Ben MacMichael, the manager of the West End Food bank.
“It is more hit and miss with milk, dairy, cheese, meat, fish all that kind of stuff” he says.
Ben MacMichael would like grocery stores to donate more perishable goods like meat. (Marc Genuist/CBC)MacMichael says grocery stores are hesitant to donate meat, fish or dairy products to food banks.
“A lot of time I have fear the first time — you know, they look at me when I’m asking for those items and they have a bit of fear because they are worried if they give us some food and we give it out improperly then one of our people will get sick and they’ll get sued, or there will be some sort of issue raised with that,” he said.
MacMichael says they don’t need to worry because the province has had a law to protect donations of food for many years. His version of the act dates back to 1992.
The Charitable Donation of Food Act states: “A person who makes a charitable donation of food or items relating to personal hygiene to persons in the Province is not liable for damages arising as a result of injury or death caused by the nature, age, condition or handling of the food or items.”
He also wants the grocery chains to know he and staff at Moncton’s Food depot have been trained to handle perishable foods. He says they have freezers and fridges.
“As a food bank we are trained and certified in safe food handling so what I would do If I got a big load of meat, I would repackage it into smaller portions to give out to individuals but I would do it in a safe manner,” he said. “We have to do everything to handle it safely to protect the people who gave it to us and to protect our families.”
CBC News sent emails about the idea to Sobey’s, Superstore and Costco.
Sobey’s spokesperson Shauna Selig emailed back to say she had “reached out to the West End Food Bank to see if there is room to improve on the type of product being donated to our stores. We want to work with the West End Food Bank and see where those opportunities lie — keeping in mind that food safety is a top priority.”
Superstore’s Mark Boudreau, the director of corporate affairs for the Atlantic region, said in an email the company “aims to increase its support to food banks through the donation of surplus food to local food banks. The program will provide fresh food (bakery, meat, dairy and produce) to local food banks.”
He says in New Brunswick, Atlantic Superstore has two stores participating in a new program to get fresh food to the Fredericton Soup Kitchen and the Saint John East Food Bank.
“Participating food banks need to have a refrigerated truck and be able to cook the food that has been donated,” he said.
MacMichael says he’s eager to discuss his idea with those two companies.
Costco did not respond to the inquiry from CBC News.
France has a new law that will soon ban grocery stores from throwing away or destroying unsold food, which MacMichael says is “a pretty serious next step.”
“I know our grocery stores in Canada, New Brunswick and Moncton specifically have been generous with us so I don’t think that needs to be mandated here.”