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Canada’s surplus food rescue program now accepting applications

The Surplus Food Rescue Program will prioritize surplus commodities that have a higher risk of loss, such as potatoes and some aquaculture products.

June 17, 2020  By Potatoes in Canada

Applications are now open for the $50-million Surplus Food Rescue Program launched by the Canadian government to limit food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program aims to move surplus food commodities such as potatoes and other possible horticulture, fish and seafood, and meat through the food system to help vulnerable Canadians.

COVID-19 caused significant disruptions to areas of Canada’s food system, as it forced the near closure of the restaurant and hospitality industry in Canada and the United States. Some producers across Canada are left with surpluses of quality food, while increased demand from grocery stores alone is not expected to clear the inventory before it spoils. At the same time, the pandemic has increased the demand for food from food banks and other food security organizations in communities across Canada.


The program aims to ensure the surplus food reaches vulnerable populations in Canada through the purchase, processing, transportation and redistribution of surplus food. The program is designed to rescue surplus food that may be fresh, frozen inventory or in need of further processing due to its highly perishable nature. In ongoing consultations with industry and government stakeholders, the program is designed to address urgent, high volume, highly perishable surplus products falling under horticulture, meat and fish and seafood.

Program applications are being accepted until July 15 beginning immediately. Information on the application process is available through the Surplus Food Rescue Program.

Who can apply

Eligible applicants include for-profit and not-for-profit organizations (industry groups, processors, distributors, food serving agencies, regional and municipal governments and agencies (can include schools or school boards) that can demonstrate an ability to handle the full logistical requirements for acquiring, processing, transporting and ensuring shelf-life stability of surplus commodities and delivery to organizations serving vulnerable populations.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will give priority consideration for surplus commodities that have immediate risk of loss will be determined first. For example, potatoes and some aquaculture products need immediate processing or will be lost or destroyed. In early June, Potatoes New Brunswick put out a call to Minister Bibeau to take action now as millions of pounds of potatoes sat in storage.

The Surplus Food Rescue Program will award contributions to organizations who:

  • can acquire and move the most surplus product (must identify amount to be moved)
  • use the most cost-effective approach (for acquiring food (acquiring product at or below the cost of production or through donations as applicable)
  • use the most cost-effective approach for processing (only process if cannot be distributed otherwise) and at minimal cost
  • are most efficient, from wholesale purchase to food serving agencies (drawing down on surplus quickly)
  • can make sure food reaches the most vulnerable and remote communities, especially northern communities (target of up to 10 per cent for all food under the program)
  • have partnerships already established along the supply chain including food serving agencies

Anyone applying have to demonstrate an ability to handle the full logistical requirements for acquiring, processing, transporting and ensuring shelf-life stability of surplus commodities with a target to make available of up 10 per cent of surplus food under the program to the northern communities.

“A safe and reliable food supply in remote and Northern communities is critical, not only in a pandemic, but every day. The current crisis has placed increased demand on food suppliers and food banks all across the country. Combined with our increased support through Nutrition North Canada, the Surplus Food Rescue Program will help ensure communities in the North continue to have access to healthy and affordable food during this challenging time,” added Dan Vandal, minister of northern affairs, in a released statement.

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