Redistributing surplus food

GreenHouse logoWhen the word waffle comes up in conversation with Elle Crevits, surprisingly, she isn’t talking about food. Surprising, because Elle spends her days thinking about how to keep waffles and other surplus food out of the garbage and how to get it to people who might not otherwise have a nutritious meal.

When Elle says waffle, she’s talking about her indecision whether or not to join the St. Paul’s GreenHouse community last January. She describes how uncertain she was in advance, but says that joining GreenHouse was “the best decision I ever made – it really was!”

In a one-week period, she decided to join GreenHouse and to write her final research paper in her Peace and Conflict Studies program on food waste. There was no more waffling after that.

She describes her GreenHouse experience as eye-opening. “When I came in, I thought it would be about learning the steps to get from A to B in setting up a business, but it wasn’t like that at all. Tania [Del Matto, director of GreenHouse] has a picture in her office about the path to success: That we think it will be a straight line, but it’s actually a convoluted squiggle.”

Elle and Jonathan with the food van

Elle began an initiative called Food Not Waste, with the intention of diverting unserved food from restaurants, bakeries, and catering companies, and redistributing it to people in need in the community.

“GreenHouse was a safe place that helped me gain the confidence I needed to go out and explore and push beyond what I thought was my capacity. I learned how to set up meetings and believe I had something worth bringing to the table. I also learned about being tenacious — being able to say yes every time someone says no, and then to say yes once more.”

Food Not Waste received a Yes from the GreenHouse Social Innovation Fund, as well as from the Ryther Fund (administered through The Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation), offering Elle seed capital to run a pilot project this summer. From mid-July to mid-August, she and her startup partner, Jonathan Ramzan, are renting a refrigerated van to run a food redistribution program, picking up surplus food from small businesses and delivering it to the House of Friendship.

Suplus food, waiting to be distributed

In addition to providing good nutritious food to people, the pilot project will also attempt to get a better understanding of how much food can actually be rescued, and whether it is a match for the needs of the organizations they supply. If the pilot program proves viable, she plans to operate Food Not Waste after her graduation.

“GreenHouse was the push I needed,” says Elle. “If you want to walk the talk, join GreenHouse. They will walk with you. Just do it.”

Hear Kwame Ansong's podcast interview with Elle Crevits

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