Student Life

Not all superheroes wear capes

An increasing number of grocers have taken to offering online ordering services.

The consumer can add food items to their cart, and either pick it up in store or have it delivered at a cost. But what if you could do this and contribute to eliminating waste at the same time?

Montreal-based startup FoodHero offers a virtual market, allowing merchants to sell food that would have otherwise ended up in the garbage – products that are still consumable. But FoodHero is not a food company.

“We are actually a technology company,” said Alexandria Laflamme, a FoodHero representative. “We developed an application with the primary goal to counter food waste.”

It is no secret that many food merchants dispose of food items that are still good. As per Second Harvest’s 2019 The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste report, nearly 60 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted annually. In fact, Canada is among the top emitters where food waste is concerned. According to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s (BCFN) 2018 Food Sustainability Index, Canada ranks fifth for overall food loss and waste.

“Our interface gives the consumer a chance to go give a second life to these products,” said Laflamme, adding that the products are offered at 25 to 60 per cent off their original price. Customers can search for products by store proximity and filter through food categories, allowing for them to shop accordingly to their diet, whether it be vegetarian, lactose-free, Halal or Kosher.

“Consumers are always thinking ‘oh, I don’t know what I can do,’ but FoodHero gives them the power to do something,” said Laflamme. “We act as an intermediary agent between the consumer and the merchant, and use technology to give them power.” She added that this technological aspect allows for their collaborators to still feel as though they are in charge and contributing to the issue at hand.

Being primarily a tech company, FoodHero worked on an algorithm within the application that allows the consumer to see the amount of emissions that were prevented through their cumulative orders and the kilograms of food waste saved. “The consumer can actually see their impact,” explained Laflamme. “This allows for them to make sense of what they are doing.”

FoodHero’s primary mission is to reduce food waste in grocery stores, which is currently at around 40 per cent worldwide, according to Laflamme and statistics found on the FoodHero website.

“Our goal is to work with many agents in the food industry,” said Laflamme, referring to producers and distributors. “Currently, we work only with grocery stores, which, in itself, is already a place where there is a huge amount of waste.”

“We are starting off. The statistics are still being accumulated but we are growing,” said Laflamme. “We started off collaborating with one IGA, three months ago, then six, and currently, we have over 100 IGA stores on board and are approaching the 200 mark.”

While the app has only been active for six months, the company has grown exponentially since their debut over the summer, due to a business model developed by the FoodHero team over the course of two years, and will soon be expanding to include Metro grocers.

“It was a very well thought out prototype,” said Laflamme. “It was thoroughly tested because it is a complex idea. Because of this, we are working well, and growing quickly.”

However, FoodHero is not the only player in the game. Flashfood, a similar app by Loblaw Companies Ltd., is currently partnered with 139 Maxi and Provigo locations throughout Quebec.

But what change does FoodHero hope to contribute to the overall problem? “Our objective is to have all our collaborating merchants be zero food waste by 2025,” said Laflamme.

While there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to waste in the food industry, Laflamme  said that it is the everyday details, like shopping apps, that will contribute to making a change.

“It’s small steps that will allow for us to have a real impact,” said Laflamme.

More information about FoodHero can be found on their website Their app is available on the App Store and Google Play. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Concordia mobilizes to combat wasting unsold food and clothes

As the city of Montreal announced its new plans last week to tackle food and clothes waste, Concordia is already taking steps to do just that. 

In the city’s proposal, Mayor Valerie Plante and her team aim to ban stores from dumping unsold clothes and food, in an attempt to become zero waste by 2030. A plan released on Oct. 17 lays out their goal to reduce food waste by 50 per cent in five years, and reduce Montreal’s commercial textile waste.

According to Faisal Shennib, an environmental specialist who is managing Zero Waste Concordia (ZWC), they are already taking steps to reduce food waste.

“We’ve always aimed to reduce waste from landfills as much as possible,” said Shennib. “Organics are the top contributors of waste from our institutions, and they release a lot of methane when they go into the landfills, so it’s an easy target for us.”

ZWC plans to make compost bins accessible in each food consumption area at Concordia, and wants to figure out a program to process the organics that are composted in a sustainable way.

“But then what we realized is that we weren’t connecting usable food waste to people who could use it,” said Shennib.

Their pilot project, tentatively named Zero Waste Concordia’s Food Donation Program, was launched this September. It aims to get restaurants and cafes renting space at the university to move toward eliminating their food waste.

The project has three phases. The first is to educate the tenants, such as Subway, Java U and, Jugo Juice, about basic sustainability, like recycling and composting. The second phase is planned to launch next semester and aims to formally give them the opportunity to partner with organizations like La Tablée des Chefs. Their food recovery program redistributes surplus food to community organizations that provide food to the homeless. The third is to encourage tenants to rethink their food packaging and use of plastics in their businesses.

ZWC already informally contacted some tenants for the project, and most either expressed interest or are already involved in another food redistribution charity. Concordia as an institution already has a contract with La Tablée des Chefs. ZWC is also trying to get confirmation from the university to allow their tenants to be covered under their agreement.

“They use our landfill container at the end of the day,” said Shennib. “They actually throw out all that food, potentially, unless they have their own program.”

The project is also working to reduce food waste from university events by working with Hospitality Concordia, who organizes events at the institution. Hospitality Concordia already has a partnership with Tablée des Chefs but was targeting larger events. ZWC wants to target smaller, student-run events that may also be wasting food.

“There’s also a smaller ecosystem we want to build,” continued Shennib. “Say a student club serves food to 10 people, and then they have a lot of cookies leftover and nobody wants to take it from the group- it shouldn’t have to go to waste either. We’re trying to collaborate with health food co-op Frigo Vert to potentially use them as a place where students can bring them their leftovers, and they can offer them to the community.”

School Stores: Unsold Clothes

Melanie Burnett, the general manager for Concordia Stores, said they rarely ever throw away clothes because they almost always sell their apparel. Burnett said they have sales to sell unsold clothes and that they also recently donated their apparel to a charity.

She explained the only time they throw away clothes from their stores is if they are damaged and unsellable.

Concordia Stores also have a partnership with Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR). Burnett said they have donated some unsold art supplies to CUCCR for creative purposes in the past, and have given them wooden shelves the Stores were no longer using.

“By fixing ambitious targets and giving ourselves the means to attain them, our city will deploy the necessary efforts to make its ecological transition more concrete,” said executive committee member Laurence Lavigne Lalonde. Lalonde is responsible for the ecological transition and resilience of l’Espace pour la vie et de l’agriculture urbaine.

Concordia has several other initiatives aiming to reduce food waste, such as the Dish Project, Waste Not Want Not and the Concordia Food Coalition. 


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.


Giving a second life to compostable foods

Megan Clarke, a Concordian Sustainability student, is trying to get Concordia to find alternative ways to deal with food-waste other than composting it, with the aim of becoming fully waste-free.

According to Clarke, Concordia would be the first university in Quebec to do so.

She is planning to create ways for food waste to be redistributed on campus instead of just composting it. This entails taking wasted food from Concordia events or on-campus stores and giving it to organizations, such as shelters.

Clarke has gathered over 1,500 signatures in the hopes that the Concordia Student Union (CSU) will make zero food waste a university-wide policy.

“Hey, if France can do this, we can too,” Clarke said. “The student body wants this, it is about time we do this.”

According to an article in the Guardian, in 2016, France passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing out unsold food, making them donate it to food charities instead.

Concordia Compost said in a statement that “Food and organic waste are the largest waste component generated at Concordia – yet we only compost 26% of organic waste. Half of what Concordia sends to landfill could be composted instead.”

“You can’t eat compost,” Clarke said, emphasizing that her project is not about composting food waste, but getting that food to people that need it.

Clarke admits that in 2008 to 2009 she struggled with finding affordable food, and knows people that are still having those issues.

“It’s a lot of work, I didn’t think I’d be this deep into it to be honest,” said Clarke. “I wanted to give back to a society that so desperately needs nutrition.”

She started the project alone in February and was shot down by every organization she contacted. It wasn’t until Clarke met Faisal Shennib from Zero Waste Concordia that she was able to start gaining traction.

According to Clarke, it was through this that the idea of a communal fridge was created. She invisions multiple communal fridges, which are maintained by volunteers, across the campus where anyone can take and leave food.

There are multiple communal fridges across the city, in Rosemont, Little Burgundy, and Saint-Henri.

“We already started redistributing food from events to organizations,” said Clarke. “But sometimes those organizations don’t want to come by for one or two slices of pizza. What do we do with that? Do we just throw it out? No, it’s zero waste, we have to go all the way.”

“Because it’s amongst the people, by the people, there is no liability,” Clarke said. “You trust the person you are getting this from.”

“It does work in other places, so let’s try it out here,” Clarke said. “Let’s try to reduce waste, try to eliminate waste across Concordia.”

Besides the fridges, Clarke has many other projects in the making.

She wants to collaborate with student food resources such as People’s Potato, who have a free lunch Monday to Friday, and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, that has a two dollar lunch every Thursday. Clarke wants to create another free meal in the evening, Monday to Friday.

“I want leftover food to be distributed as well,” she said. “If we have those leftovers, and we have a space, then we would be able to feed 200-500 students on a daily basis.”

In addition, Clarke works with the Dish Project, which is a waste reduction organization, and together they try and reduce food waste at Concordia events.

Yet, because Clarke is doing this mostly alone, she doesn’t have much visibility and people do not know they can donate food waste to her initiative.

Organizations that Clarke works with like Zero-Waste Concordia and The Dish Project are always looking for help. The best way to reach Clarke is at


Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Student Life

Tips on taking the dive into the dumpster

A discussion about the food industry through the dos and the don’ts of dumpster diving

When faced with the idea of diving into a dumpster to collect dinner, some may think ew. In our society, garbage is thought of as filthy. So, naturally, a stigma surrounds the dumpster diving practice. But think again.

On March 10, Concordia students Isabella Donati-Simmons and Aven Fisher organized a workshop to talk about the art of ‘diving.’

The workshop, coordinated by Les Échelles, a collective with a focus on a sharing lifestyle, explored the dos and don’ts of the practice, as well as the larger problem of food waste in Canada. The event gathered about 30 people, half of them already experienced divers.

“We are not experts. We are just avid dumpster divers,” Fisher said to start off the workshop.

The participants and organizers discussed major problems surrounding food waste in Canada and around the world. From consumer standards of food aesthetics to transportation and transnational agreements, to the lack of personal connection with food, participants discussed some of the reasons they felt food waste is such a big problem. “The food system is an extremely complex web. It is not just a straight line,” Fisher said.

In Canada, $31 billion worth of food is wasted each year, according to a 2014 report from Value Chain Management International, a global company aiming to improve the efficiency of food chains. This marks a 15 per cent increase from 2010. The same study shows that 47 per cent of this waste comes from individuals in their homes. “It makes you wonder why some are still starving or food insecure, especially the First Nations peoples,” Donati-Simmons said.

Fisher and Donati-Simmons went through “the dumpster rules.” According to the organizers, divers shouldn’t necessarily look at the best-before dates on unopened products and packages. They say it is more important to rely on smell and look instead.

Some products contaminated by mold are still edible. The U.S Department of Agriculture established a list of food which can still be eaten if moldy. This includes hard cheese, firm vegetables, and salami. Donati-Simmons recommends cutting about an inch around and under the mold.

Dumpster divers should equip themselves with a light, preferably a head lamp, gloves and reusable bags. The best places to dive are around small grocery stores or bakeries. The organizers also recommended paying attention to garbage day schedules and store owners’ garbage habits. Fisher also pointed out that it is important not to take more than you need, with respect to other divers.

While the practice is not illegal, it is illegal to trespass. “Most tenants are okay with it and will indicate where to look or even give you wastes, but don’t leave it messy,” Fisher said.

“The best thing is to be respectful [as divers],” Donati-Simmons added.

To clean food collected on a diving trip, a bath of water and vinegar or dish soap does the trick. It must be naturally air-dried before refrigeration to avoid spores during storage. The food can then be prepared or frozen after being dried. The most common uses of recollected food are in soups, jams, smoothies, kimchi or as dried fruit.

The workshop was followed by a diving initiation in the Plateau and a meal at Donati-Simmons’ and Fisher’s house with the recollected food.

“Dumpster diving is sharing, finding new uses, changing the waste culture and realising what our society does,” Donati-Simmons said.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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