Canada's Invisible Food Network

Second Harvest shares Canada’s Invisible Food Network report

Canada’s largest food rescue organization, Second Harvest, and Value Chain Management International have released a new report titled “Canada’s Invisible Food Network”.

The report found that there are over 61,000 non-profit organizations in Canada providing food at no or low cost to people in need, compared to the 15,344 grocery stores in this country.

If you put a dollar value on the food distributed by these non-profits, the $33 billion value in food provided in 2020 would make them the second-largest grocery store in Canada in sales volume.

“Canada’s Invisible Food Network” is the first report to reveal the massive, invisible patchwork of community organizations that supported an estimated 6.7 million vulnerable Canadians, or 18 per cent of the country’s population, in 2020.

“No matter where you live, chances are you live near an organization that provides food to people,” said Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest. “And it’s not just food banks – our research shows that churches, temples, mosques, schools, seniors centres, shelters and many other community spaces are feeding Canadians every day.”

This research is the first in Canada to:

  • Identify all nongovernmental organizations in Canada that are supporting people with food (61,310)
  • Map where these food programs and charities are located across the country
  • Measure how much food is being given out per year (over 10 billion lbs. in 2020)
  • Quantify supply vs. demand and identify a shortfall (162 million lbs shortfall in 2020)
  • Measure the food types NGOs need most and least
  • Measure the impact of COVID-19 on the demand for food charity (72 per cent increase in people served in 2020)

“Our research shows that the charitable food system is a huge patchwork of vital but disconnected services. That’s not a sustainable model of a resilient food system, especially for our most vulnerable populations,” said Nikkel. “What adds to the urgency is that millions of tonnes of unsold healthy food are going to landfill every year. We need to start bridging the food rescue gap now and this research gives us a literal map to move forward.”

Read the full “Canada’s Invisible Food Network” report, including a regional breakdown of the findings, here.

About Second Harvest

Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization with a network including farms, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and foodservice. The organization works with thousands of businesses across the food supply chain to reduce the amount of edible food going to waste, which in turn stops millions of pounds of greenhouse gases from damaging the environment. All the food Second Harvest recovers is redirected to charity and non-profit organizations, ensuring people have access to the healthy food they need.

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