Toronto's Pay-What-You-Can Grocery Store Feeds the Hungry, Not the Landfill
The Feed It Forward Grocery Store—Toronto's first pay-what-you-can food market, bakery and cafe—lets customers pay only what they can afford.
The store, located on 3324 Dundas St. West, opened earlier this month thanks to the efforts of chef Jagger Gordon and his team of volunteers.
The food is donated from the region's grocery stores, farmers and bakeries, distributors and restaurants. The produce might be a little bruised or misshapen, and the pre-made foods might be near its sell-by date, but it's perfectly edible. On Sunday, the store offered organic vegetables from Whole Foods, as the chef touted in a Facebook live post.
"It's a simple procedure of taking those trucks that are destined for landfills and hijacking them and giving them to people in need," Gordon told The Canadian Press. "There's more of a demand for food that is needed by Canadians than people know."
The grocery store has diverted as much as 492 lbs. a day from landfills, Gordon estimated to the Guardian.
Gordon, who heads the not-for-profit Feed It Forward program to help food-insecure Canadians, also opened a pop-up soup bar for eight months last year with the same pay-what-you-can concept.
On his website, Gordon points out that 40 percent of all food produced in Canada ends up in landfills, a price tag of $31 billion every year. It's an astonishing figure considering the 1 in 7 (or 4.9 million) people in the country who live in poverty.
"As a chef and caterer, I face this food-waste reality every day and in 2014 I reached a point where I could no longer stand by and let this happen with a clear conscience," he writes. That same year, he launched the "Feed Families" frozen food program that provides qualifying families with meals donated from Toronto food producers.
Shoppers at the Feed it Forward Grocery Store may only take one day's worth of food for their families and list the items they picked up. They are also asked to leave their name and contact information.
Gordon told the Guardian: "What I have noticed is people look into the baskets, try to calculate what it is and then say, 'is this acceptable?' And I just say, 'are you kidding me? Whatever you can give is fine, but if you are unable to make a donation, we won't let anyone go hungry.' I wouldn't even ask for a penny from anyone if I could, but it's a social enterprise."
At the end of the business day, any food that's left over is taken to a nearby homeless shelter and community center, he told the publication.
You might wonder how such a concept could sustain itself financially. Gordon explained to the Canadian Press that the store's operation costs are relatively low since food is donated and labor is volunteered, and he noted that his pay-what-you-can soup bar "balanced out" at the end.
He added that overhead costs can be supplemented from fundraisers, online donations and revenue from his catering business, Jagger Gordon Catering. He also plans to register the project as a charity, and pursue corporate backers and sponsorships.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.