When Laylo Atakhodjaeva started researching food waste in Canada she discovered that 40% of food basically ends up in landfills. She found out that stores might be throwing away perfectly edible food. “In my religion,” Laylo said “it is sinful to waste anything and I knew that I had to do something about it. After more research, I realized Community Fridges that have been so popular in Europe to reduce food waste could be ideal in Canada as well.”
Laylo’s husband Shabeeb Hasan (cofounder of Road to Zero Waste nonprofit) joined her in a mission to reduce food waste and to feed the underprivileged. They plan to establish community fridges all across Canada. “Currently,” Laylo said “we have launched 7 community fridges across GTA and hope to launch many more very soon. In January, 2020 we will be launching our Brampton fridge.
“The reason we only want to place surplus food into our community fridges is that “Food waste when decomposed in landfills creates methane gas which is speeding up climate change and is very toxic to the whole world! Here at Road to Zero Waste nonprofit, we are doing two things simultaneously: fighting climate change and at the same time feeding our underprivileged population who are so many with rising living costs! One in eight Canadians goes hungry to sleep and yet we waste 31 billion dollars’ worth of food annually.”
They also run food waste workshops where they speak about ways households can reduce and help the environment. “We hope through workshops we can change the habits of the public to help us fight climate change and reduce food waste!”
They have over 100 volunteers who pick up food from local stores and restaurants and deliver it to the community fridges.
Laylo says “Our designated volunteers on their scheduled time go to pick up donations.” Cooked food from restaurants is placed in containers, which are labeled and dated. If produce is picked up from stores, this is just loosely placed in fridges. “Every 2 days our volunteers go to visit the fridge and clean up any spills, audit any cooked food that has been more than 2 days and compost and throw away anything that is not in accordance with our policy. We have Public Health officials regularly visiting our fridges and they been very supportive of our initiative as well.
“A lot of us do not even realize how many new immigrants, single moms, mentally challenged homeless folks or retired population that we serve, are struggling day to day to eat nutritious food ! Road to Zero Waste makes it accessible for them to enjoy surplus food. You can visit our Facebook page for more information and see a lot of testimonials from the struggling folks that use our fridges! … No questions asked just come and enjoy free surplus nutritious food.”
The Community Fridge recently made available in Milton is located at Al Amin, a halal meat and grocery store managed by Fehra and Mohammad Yasin at 885 Main Street East. “I don’t ask any questions.” Fehra said, “I walk away if anyone needs to take something from the Community Fridge. People need self-respect.” The fridge is not overloaded, but at least one local church has donated large boxes of potatoes and carrots which are stacked beside the fridge. “Just restaurant food is allowed in the fridge. No home cooked food.” An Inspector had been in recently and given guidelines for stocking and tending to the donated food. Bags of dry food, such as rice and sugar as well as canned food are needed as well.
This is a great venture, citizens and church groups are asked to help keep the fridge stocked for anyone who needs it. The store is easily available at Main and Thompson and visitors will be warmly welcomed to either find or donate food.
Please see the Facebook page and YouTube channel for more information @ road to zero waste.