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Shirley Phippen wasn’t prepared to waste her retirement years doing nothing. In 2019 she read a story about the Leftovers Foundation, a charity that helps communities fight poverty and food insecurity, while reducing food waste. The article piqued her interest.
“I just thought, yeah, that sounds like something I could really get into because I believe in it,” Phippen said.
The 75-year old signed up, and has been a volunteer driver in Edmonton for 18 months. Phippen is one of 125 volunteers in Edmonton and Calgary who pick up food from bakeries, cafes, grocery stores, and restaurants, and deliver to agencies like food banks, women’s shelters, and homeless shelters. In 2020, 596,755 pounds of food were redirected from landfills and given to community members who needed it.
“We’re not providing any kind of luxuries, we’re just providing enough food to put on their table and feed their kids. It is food that would otherwise get thrown away.”
The Leftovers Foundation has been serving the less fortunate since 2012. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, staff saw demand quadruple overnight.
“Food access and food insecurity was an issue before the pandemic, and then once the pandemic hit it just grew and shone a spotlight on many of the problems that already existed and that COVID exacerbated,” Audra Stevenson, Interim CEO, Leftovers Foundation said.
“Anybody who has good, edible, delicious food that can still be used, we can pick it up and we deliver it to those who need it. We’re the Uber drivers of food redirection.”
In 2020, the foundation helped service agencies provide 314,321 meals to those in need.
That work was recently recognized by the Alberta Government’s Civil Society Fund, which provided $7 million in grants to 21 organizations helping people who are struggling during the pandemic. This was the first year of a three year, $20 million government commitment. Leftovers Foundation received $200,000 to expand its services to Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat.
“It’s really about having an impact in Alberta, which is what we’re all about,” Stevenson said.
The foundation’s goal is to be operating in those cities by the end of 2022.
“I’m really happy to hear the government is supporting the work that Leftovers is doing,” Shirley Phippen added.
Phippen makes her pick ups and deliveries three times a week in her 2018 Honda Civic.
“It is very reliable and quite sporty. I can pack a lot of food in it if I need to, all along the backseat and the trunk and the passenger’s side. As long as you can see out the windows you are good to go.”
She will keep driving for as long as she can, knowing she’s making a difference with every stop she makes.
“I feel like I am doing something that is worthwhile. I’ve always liked to help people.”
Rajan Sawhney served as Minister of Community and Social Services from April 30, 2019 to July 7, 2021.