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Letter from the editor
6 NEWS BITES
Food Safety Supply chain food safety compliance
From probiotics to phytoplankton, food manufacturers are looking for added value in natural ingredients
mintel intel Food/beverage brands are positioned to connect with consumers eager to take action on their health
A TASTE OF... Food banks focus on nutrition
Functional Foods Publisher & CEO Christopher J. Forbes firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Editor Theresa Rogers email@example.com staff writers Hermione Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org Kelly Townsend email@example.com editorial interns
Michelle Chiu Lily Huang
Alan Grant Carol Wong-Li
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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
Truer words have never been spoken. Food provides the energy and nutrition for us to grow, stay healthy and go about our lives. These days though, the talk is all about “functional foods” and the term has taken on new levels of meaning. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) says, “Functional foods are foods enhanced with bioactive ingredients and which have demonstrated health benefits, such as probiotic yogurt, or breads and pasta with added pea fibre.” According to 2011 data from AAFC, more than 750 Canadian companies were specialized in functional foods and natural health products, garnering more than $11 billion in revenues. The exact size of the market is difficult to judge given the lack of current data, but my inbox is overflowing with press releases about new products. The demand for functional foods seems to be growing exponentially, even outpacing that of the traditional processed food market. Functional food attributes are developed by increasing vitamin and/or mineral levels beyond mandatory requirements (for example, fortified soy beverages and fruit juice with calcium) says AAFC; with the addition of bioactive ingredients (for example, margarine with phytosterols, muffins with beta-glucan, yogurts with probiotics, and drinks with herb blends); and through enhancement with bioactive components through plant breeding, genetic modification, processing, or special livestock feeding techniques (for example, eggs, milk and meat with omega-3; canola oil high in carotenoids; and strawberries with enhanced levels of ellagic acid). It’s good news for consumers (options) and manufacturers (opportunities for new products, revenue streams and consumers). Our story, “Fully Functional”, on page 8, says food manufacturers can gain a lot from adding ingredients to their products but the process is not without its challenges. Functional ingredients can add value in terms of health profile, but requires adjustment to the taste and mouth feel of the product, not to mention the management of consumer expectations. Our Mintel Intel story on page 12 provides lots of insight into Canadians’ attitudes toward healthy eating and points out the difficult role of the manufacturer. With the bulk of Canadians targeting to eat healthy all or most of the time, it is not surprising that consumers exhibit high levels of interest in foods/beverages with health claims on the packaging. Manufacturers need to play a guiding role, knowing that consumers will expect proof of how ingredients lead to tangible benefits as their trust in health claims/labels wanes.
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food events 2017 May 4–10 Interpack 2017 Dusseldorf, Germany www.interpack.com May 9–11 Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention and Trade Show Toronto, ON www.cpma.ca May 9–11 VitaFoods Europe Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland www.vitafoods.eu.com/ en/welcome.html May 10, May 16, September 13, October 5, October 19 Food Processing Webcasts www.foodprocessing. com/webcasts June 6-7 Diary Plant Food Safety Workshop Baraboo, WI www.idfa.org/forms/ meeting/Microsite/ DPFS_WI_2017boo June 14 Best Sanitation Practices in Food Processing Plants Brampton, ON www.nsflearn.com/ node/200
CFIA Partners with French Food Regulator The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is protecting Canada’s food, plants and animals through science and collaboration with partners, both internationally and at home. The CFIA recently signed a sciencesharing memorandum of understanding with the French food regulator, Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (ANSES). The agreement will strengthen and formalize scientific cooperation on innovative research taking place at the CFIA network of 13 reference and research laboratories, and the ANSES network of 11 laboratories throughout France. The collaboration is envisioned to further develop research on genomics and proteomics to better understand food and animal diseases and how to detect them. Scientific techniques in these areas, such as DNA barcoding and whole genome sequencing are already refining and improving the way the CFIA detects and studies foodborne illness, invasive species, plant and animal diseases. “In a globalized world where Canada trades internationally, threats such as foreign animal diseases, invasive species and anti-microbial resistance are global issues that know no borders,”
DNA barcoding is used to detect diseases in foods that are harmful to human health says Dr. Primal Silva, Vice President of Science for the CFIA. “The CFIA will continue to develop international partnerships so we can further protect Canadians through global scientific innovation and collaboration.”
Health Canada Moves to Eliminate PHOs in Food Health Canada recently introduced a regulatory proposal to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in food. PHOs are the main source of industrially produced trans fats. From April 7 to June 21, a Notice of Proposal detailing the proposed regulation posted online will seek comments from Canadians, including stakeholders. Once the regulation is finalized, the prohibition would come into effect one year later to provide manufacturers time to reformulate their products. The proposal builds on previous measures, which include mandatory nutrition labelling of trans fats
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and setting voluntary maximum limits for these fats in processed foods. Eliminating PHOs from the Canadian food supply is an important part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians, Health Canada says. “Through the Healthy Eating Strategy, our government is working to make the healthier choice the easier choice,” says Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. “By prohibiting partially hydrogenated oils, we are removing the largest source of industrial trans fats from Canada’s food supply and helping reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Better Nutrition in a Convenience-driven World
By Michelle Chiu
June 25–26 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo 2017 Las Vegas, NV www.iftevent.org September 16-17 Canadian Health Food Association Trade Show Toronto, ON https://chfa.ca/en/ events/tradeshows/ index.html/chfa-east/
With increasingly busy lifestyles, Canadians are often too rushed to properly eat, or to eat at all. They want quick and convenient foods to incorporate into their diets, and they don’t want to have to read labels. Mostafa Shaker is CEO and Co-founder of Tudo, a New Brunswick-based company that provides a convenient and healthy energy booster option. Tudo’s individually packaged fruity drink uses ingredients found in nature, such as flax, mango, and banana, with no additives. Each package produces a 500-calorie drink when mixed with 500 mL of water, enough to replace a full meal and the proper nutrients to fuel the day. “There’s a lot more expectation now to be putting in more work hours and not just being on top of your workload, but having a good work-life balance,” he says. “Sometimes, your nutrition can suffer, so we’ve created solutions where nutrition no longer has to suffer, and you can make sure you have the nutrients you need to keep sustained energy while maintaining a very active on-the-go lifestyle.” Shaker says in the convenience food market, Tudo is the only vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free product. “There are other products out there, but most of them have one of these allergens or dietary restrictions.” Shaker says he wasn’t interested in putting chemical ingredients he didn’t understand into his own body. He wanted to create a product that saves
people time and uses natural alternatives that are available. The co-founders also aimed for Tudo to be comparatively lower priced to give consumers more affordable options. “We knew from the beginning that the cost of Tudo would be very important to its success,” says Dave Brown. “The meal replacement market is getting increasingly crowded and in order to get noticed we would need to be both the highest quality and affordably priced. Research was thus focused on finding ingredients that were nutritional powerhouses. We used linear programming to optimize the formulation for nutrition and cost, and ran many models to find the best combination of results with what is an enjoyable taste to consumers.” And while powdered meal replacements prove to be efficient, Shaker adds that people are looking for even more convenient foods. “There is definitely a market for powdered foods, but I think the future of this industry will veer away from powder and look for more convenient ways for some people to replace their meals, with more soluble foods that you can drink and consume right away.” As Tudo strives to help improve the lives of busy people, Shaker says, “I feel like nutrition is extremely important. If you are trying to sustain a certain level of productivity or are setting out to do something amazing, your nutrition needs to come first. If you’re not fueling your body well, you won’t be able to do much of what you’re trying to do.”
September 19-22 Process Expo 2017 Chicago, IL www.myprocessexpo. com October 23-24 Grocery Innovations Canada Show Toronto, ON https://cfig.ca/groceryinnovations-canada/ December 5 -6 Canadian Food & Drink Summit Calgary, AB www.conferenceboard. ca/conf/foodsummit/ default.aspx
functional By Hermione Wilson
From probiotics to phytoplankton, food manufacturers are looking for added value in natural ingredients
manufacturers can gain a lot from adding certain natural ingredients to their products, but the process is not without its challenges. Adding proteins, probiotics or phytoplankton to the recipe of a food product can add value in terms of health profile, but it requires a lot of adjustment to the taste, mouth feel and functionality of the product. The biggest challenge is managing consumer expectations, says Jill Baxter, Commercial Director of Cambrian’s Natural and Organics commercial food group. Consumers are looking for the health benefits that come with reduced sugar, lower glycemic index and high protein, but still want the taste of a product with high-fructose corn syrup or refined sugar, she says. Part of the role of Baxter’s group is walking Canadian manufacturers through the process of getting products to market with natural, healthy ingredients. “We source functional, natural, certified organic, non-GMO ingredients from around the world and work with Canadian manufacturers on getting their products to market as soon as possible, staying aligned with industry trends and Health Canada and FDA regulations,” she says. Baxter points to natural protein and sugar alternatives as major trends in the functional ingredients space. “The biggest trends are vegan proteins: pea protein, rice protein, sunflower seed protein, flax seed protein, psyllium seed protein,” she says. “Wherever [consumers] can get a protein, they want it and they want it at high levels.” Sweeteners like tapioca syrups, rice syrups, coconut nectars, and grape sugars are being used by manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their products or take sugar of their labels entirely, Baxter adds. “Some of the challenges we hear [from our
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clients] are definitely off notes with flavour, mouth feel, functionality,” she says. “They’re not getting the same colour in a baked product with switching to a liquid syrup, or they’re not getting the protein level, or the bar doesn’t taste very good with the type of protein they’re using, so we’re helping them with masking flavours.” Toronto-based Lallemand develops, reproduces and commercializes yeast as an industrial product. Its inactive yeast and yeast derivatives are remarkably versatile in that they bring healthy attributes to a food product while also improving taste. “We’re taking advantage of the composition of yeast and all it has in terms of macronutrients, micronutrients, and based on the composition of that inactivated yeast product we can generate fractions that will have higher levels of compounds of interest,” says Jacinthe Côté, Scientific Advisor at the company’s Bio-Ingredients Division. “We commercialize it for companies that will buy these products and then make tablets or mixtures with other active compounds.” The yeast is rich in proteins, fibre, and is also a good source of B vitamins and other minerals, Côté says. The yeast products also have high levels of glutathione, a compound known to have antioxidant properties. It is also a compound that is known to have an impact on the flavour of food. “Yeast naturally contains glutamic acid [which] is known to improve flavour in food and contribute to the taste [profile] umami,” Côté says. “Glutathione seems to interact with the nucleotides [that naturally occur in yeast] and glutamic acid to generate another taste... called kokumi.” Umami is a savoury taste often associated with meat, while kokumi is the complex synergic taste of ingredients that have had time to interact together in a dish left to marinate overnight. Lallemand deals with brewed yeast that is a byproduct of the fermentation process and used as
trending now nutrients in food, as well as primary grown yeast that is heat-inactivated or separated into fractions that are rich in protein and fibre. “Those fibres are... rich in beta-glucans and in mannans which are two types of complex polysaccharides that can have really good impact on the immune system of living organisms.” The yeast can be incorporated into domesticated animal feed where the mannans support the animals’ immune systems and help them cope with the stress of captivity, Côté says. These benefits are also possible for humans. The glucans in the yeast interact in the gut, binding with pathogens and preventing them from adhering to the gut and causing infections. Another ingredient that is gaining popularity is probiotics, or good bacteria. Quebec-based brand YogActive has been producing probiotic cereal products for over a decade but Marketing and Sales Manager Jason Bellas says the benefits of probiotics are still not widely understood. “We’ve found a niche consumer group that are very loyal to the product,” Bellas says. The YogActive cereal’s star feature is its probiotic yogurt pearls that contain the bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus (LA-5), which, among other things, increases good vaginal bacteria in women. The yogurt pearls also happen to taste like white chocolate, says Bellas. The cereal and the yogurt pearls are manufactured in Germany by the company Brüggen. “To my knowledge, to be able to even make a claim to probiotics is extremely extremely difficult in Canada and Bruggen was actually able to do that,” Bellas says. Making such a health claim requires the manufacturer to show that its product contains one billion colony forming units (CFUs) of bacteria per serving and that measure is taken when the product is near the end if its shelf life, he says. “I have seen it happen where a few cereals, they’ll make a claim of probiotics in a foreign market, but then a couple months down the road you see that the probiotics claim is no longer there,” Bellas says. YogActive has managed to hold onto its probiotics claim in a market where probiotics are gaining traction among consumers as more and more understand its benefits. The cereal is quite expensive due to the special aluminum packaging YogActive uses to protect the bacteria culture of its yogurt beads and because of the product’s costly manufacturing process. YogActive also happens to be GMO-free, which is a big plus in Canada, Bellas says. In Germany, where it is manufactured, GMOs are banned. Karen Marine Phytoplankton in Sackville, New Brunswick, is another food brand that is working with a European company to bring new natural ingredients to the Canadian market. The company sells its phytoplankton product, which is cultivated in Spain by the company Fitoplacton Marino, in capsule and powdered form. Karen recommends its
customers mix its powdered product with yogurt or applesauce to mask the fishy taste. Phytoplankton offers a trifecta of benefits, says Founder David Hunter: more energy, greater mental alertness and better digestion. Phytoplankton is a good source of B12 and may present a novel treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical trials are currently ongoing and if the results come back positive, there is a possibility that Karen’s phytoplankton could be registered as a medicine, without the need for obtaining a patent. “Our next generation of products will be food,” Hunter says. The company partnered with another Spanish company, Gastromedia, to develop recipes for a nutritional bar, a muesli cereal and a protein powder product. Gastromedia also helped Karen develop high-end recipes containing the phytoplankton for executive chefs. “It actually tastes pretty fishy, but if you microdose it, you wouldn’t really taste it,” Hunter says of the phytoplankton. He says the company plans to put phytoplankton in its food products, either in microbead or spray form. Karen doesn’t plan to make any health claims with these new products, but it hopes that with the proven success of its powdered and capsule products that contain greater amounts, consumers will make the connection. “It’s more about supplementing your nutrition,” Hunter says. “So we’re not going to say that you’re going to eat your nutritional bar and your blood pressure is going to go down.” Karen is currently in talks with Mississauga food manufacturer Sunny Crunch Foods and Sobey’s has indicated it would be interested in putting Karen phytoplankton products on its shelves. Functional ingredients are an often invisible addition to food products, but when their addition enhances the product in some way, either with added health benefits or better taste, they can be the key to a food manufacturer’s success.
Supply Chain Food Safety Compliance By Alan Grant
Verifying compliance of your supply chain can sometimes seem overwhelming, yet it is a critical task for assuring food safety and regulatory requirements are met.
year represents an unprecedented milestone in the North American food industry. The Food Safety Modernization Act is undergoing implementation and the Canadian equivalent, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, is about to be implemented, which will have the combined effect of raising the food safety bar for North American food processors. Part of the new regulatory powers on both sides of the border will be the authority for FDA and CFIA to order product recalls, whereas in the past most recalls have been voluntary on the part of the industry. The potentially higher cost and brand damage due to product recalls, puts more onus and liability on brand owners to ensure food products and ingredients, both domestic and imported, are safe and compliant. NSF International has developed years of practical experience in helping retailers, manufacturers, distributors, brokers, importers and industry associations understand and manage the risks associated with their global supply chain partners. Five of our key strategies in helping our partners minimize risk in their supply chain are:
1. Benchmarking It is important to have a defined set of food safety criteria with which to benchmark suppliers. Understanding that food safety management is a continuous journey, it is expected that the benchmark be reviewed and improved regularly. These criteria will set the bar for both regulatory and quality compliance. It important that the benchmarked criteria are communicated within their supply community.
2. Communication Process Supplier compliance strategies are a shared responsibility between all operating departments including Quality Assurance, Operations
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and Procurement. Internally, it is important to manage all suppliers with the same set of expectations, independent of relationship history. All internal departments must have an understanding of each supplierâ€™s risk assessment to fully comprehend the risk to the business that a non-compliant supplier could pose. Suppliers need to regularly be informed of the program elements and any change in criteria, and of their risk ranking.
3. Supplier Criteria It is important to develop a systematic process of supplier criteria based on risk. Risk assessments of supplier material should be a combination of assessment of the specific ingredient and potential risk to the overall brand. Criteria for consideration in a supplier review can include review of elements of the food safety plan, process flow diagram, hazard analysis, food fraud vulnerability assessments and independent third-party audit results such as SQF, BRC, and FSSC 22000. Third-party audits should include a detailed review of the food safety plan and corrective actions. Such a review is more than the collection of third-party audit certificates. There needs to be clearly defined criteria and process steps for escalation where risks and non-compliance have been identified. Building non-compliant penalties into supply agreements is recommended.
4. Technical Reviews It is important for companies to have a Supplier Compliance Program. Companies looking to manage the supplier approval process internally should be reminded that this job function is not a junior-level position. Due to the complexity of the supply chain it can be valuable to have this outsourced to an experienced independent third-party who possesses an understanding of global regulations and food
safety schemes to address the challenges of the global stage. An independent third-party service provider is more likely to be able to leverage a centralized review team to ensure calibration and consistently of supplier reviews.
5. Software Support The challenge many of our partners have encountered is receiving numerous amounts of documents from the supply chain, and managing this information on spreadsheets and in file folders. This is a very laborious exercise that drains the resources of a quality department quickly. Automating this process to track supplier compliance throughout the supply chain is possible through proprietary software programs available in the industry which have been designed by food safety professionals to address supplier compliance management issues from start to finish. Outcomes of a structured supplier compliance program include: • Regulatory compliance to FSMA and SFCA in a structured, auditable process. Keep in mind that importers are now are held to the same standard as domestic producers. • A transparent suppler management program will drive compliance through visibility and clear expectations. • Leveraging a third-party service to manage the supplier approval process will allow the ability of the brand owners’ quality management staff to focus on those areas of highest risk and eliminate the countless hours required for basic communications and document reviews. • Having a benchmarked process in place provides the ability and structure for continuous improvement. • A structured process should minimize risk to company brands. The purpose of a supply chain compliance program is not to rubber-stamp a supplier approval. The value is to understand and manage supplier risk to the business.
Alan Grant is Senior Manager, Consulting and Technical Services, NSF International
THE FLAVOUR EXPERTS AT McCORMICK CANADA ARE HERE TO HELP. Visit McCormickFlavourSolutions.ca to discover the top trends and ingredients shaping the future of flavour. ®Reg. TM McCormick & Co. Inc. Used under licence.
ATTITUDES TOWARD By Carol Wong-Li
HEALTHY EATING The issues Men more likely to be overweight yet have less intent toward eating healthy regularly Data from Statistics Canada shows that obesity is a growing problem in Canada, with men being more likely to be overweight than women. Having said this, however, results from this report show that women are much more likely to be engaging healthy eating behaviours as well as eating healthily on a more consistent basis than men. Likely contributing to their lesser engagement with healthy eating is that they lack a solid foundation in understanding which foods are healthy and which are not. The lack of awareness of healthy options may anchor them more firmly in the perception that foods labelled as healthy are less tasty than those that are not. Ideally, brands and organizations need to work together to encourage adoption of healthy eating behaviours before they get to this point.
Guilt is eating away at women Women are actively engaging in healthy eating behaviours such as including plenty of vegetables in their day-to-day meals and monitoring their sugar/salt/carb intake, etc. While being motivated and committed to eating well is positively contributing to their lesser likelihood to be overweight, women aged 18-54 and mothers are also more likely to be driven to eat well by guilt. The association of food with guilt is a slippery slope as equating foods with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can make the person themselves feel that they are ‘good’ or bad’. This has the potential to tax a woman’s self-esteem. Women need to be reminded that a healthy lifestyle should be one that balances limiting/monitoring behaviours with rewards. This is something that women do anyway (but likely feel guilty for), as indicated by their belief in not needing to diet if they eat healthy foods regularly and a penchant to allow themselves the occasional cheat day. Emphasizing the positives (i.e. not cutting out the ‘bad’ but instead, placing greater focus on addition of nutritious foods) may help in this regard.
Trust in health claims on food/beverage packaging is soft Carol Wong-Li is Senior Analyst, Lifestyles and Leisure at Mintel
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With the bulk of Canadians targeting to eat healthy all or most of the time (76%), it is not surprising that consumers exhibit high levels of interest in foods/beverages with health claims on the packaging (averaging approximately 86% for all claims). Given the high levels of interest, one would expect that consumers would also be motivated to pay more for products with such claims.
However, there is a fairly large disconnect between the two; only one in four (27%) are actually motivated to do so. While higher food cost is undoubtedly a factor, a key issue is that consumers lack trust in manufacturers and their labels – seeing them as a way for companies to charge more. Brands and companies would do well to proactively address this issue by creatively findings ways to provide shoppers with greater access to information that supports the validity of their claims. Greater transparency into the manufacturing process or background on the sources of ingredients may also help to instil a greater sense of trust amongst consumers.
Opportunities Connecting the dots for consumers: knowledge is power for them, profits for brands The intent is there: some 76% of Canadians aim to eat healthy all or some of the time. Moreover, consumers already believe in the benefits of eating well to their physical and emotional wellness. This means that food/beverage brands and grocery retailers alike are well positioned to connect with consumers as they are motivated and, for the most part, keen to take action. Where consumers may be falling off is in their understanding of how the two (healthy eating and key benefits) actually connect to each other; the problem may be a matter of information. Firstly, consumers may be working off of a weak foundation as some 40% of Canadians find it hard to determine which foods are healthy and which are not. Secondly, those who have some knowledge are likely missing the pieces that help them link key ingredients or qualities of food to tangible benefits. Regular marketing efforts and online resources that provide information of how specific ingredients work to address specific needs should work well to gain the attention and loyalty of consumers as doing so will also help address the issue of labelling trust discussed above. In particular, this strategy should work well to engage the younger consumer base of 18-34s as they are the most likely to be already online looking to learn about the best foods for needs such as improving energy, reducing acid reflux and improving skin.
into healthier options) may be less accessible. This suggests opportunities for snack manufacturers to target this audience – especially those that offer healthy, tasty options at lower price points. For parents, meal kits designed for families may be a relatively untapped opportunity. Similar to home meal replacement (HMR ) offerings from grocery stores, such products work to minimize the preparation needed to cook meals – washing and chopping vegetables, for example. However, meal kits also have the additional advantages of saving parents from the pre-planning work of cooking (including a trip to the grocery store) as well as allowing them to make a meal from scratch for their families. This is not to detract from the convenience offerings of HMR, as these are also well positioned to attract parents.
What it means Canadians proactively take care of their health and have an understanding that food intake impacts one’s physical and emotional health. Healthy living (including eating well) is a balancing act, where focus is not just on cutting back but also on being able to enjoy occasional indulgences. However, inconsistent information about which foods are ‘good’ and which are ‘bad’ is leaving consumers confused. While this opens up opportunities for brands to play a guiding role, manufacturers need to be aware that consumers today expect proof of how ingredients lead to tangible benefits as trust in health claims/labels wanes.
“CANADIANS ARE AS LIKELY TO SNACK ON HEALTHY FOODS SUCH AS FRUIT AND VEGETABLES (61%) AS THEY ARE TO REACH FOR LESS HEALTHY SALTY SNACKS SUCH AS CHIPS AND POPCORN (60%)”
Fuelling an on-the-go lifestyle Lifestyle proves to be a barrier for adopting healthier eating habits among 18-34s as well as parents (52% of 18-34s and 44% of parents vs 35% overall). For younger consumers, a higher frequency of social outings means making choices on the go. As they are likely to be less affluent than older consumers, eating out (which does not necessarily translate
A TASTE OF...
How does Food Banks Canada work with food manufacturers to meet the needs of its clients?
Food Focus onBanks Nutrition By Lily Huang
month, 860,000 Canadians receive support from Food Banks Canada. This is a 28 per cent increase from the 2008 economic downturn and the need for resources is quickly increasing. The food community – from manufacturer through to retailer – has always stepped up to the plate to fill this essential need. In March, the Walmart Foundation offered a grant of $4.6 million to Food Banks Canada to bring high volumes of quality food, refrigeration, transportation, forklifts, and storage facilities to Canadians in need. In addition, 15 of Canada’s top chefs and dietitians have come together to create nutritious and budget-friendly recipes compiled in a cookbook called, Out of the Box: Healthy Family Pasta Meals on a Budget. The cookbook was launched as part of a campaign called Help us Feed the Hope, an initiative by Catelli Foods in support of Canada’s food banks. For every share or download of the cookbook and its recipes, Catelli will donate servings of pasta to food banks across the country, with the goal of donating a total of one million servings. Complete with top food picks and health tips from the dietitians, the cookbook – which features recipes that can be made for a maximum of $15 for a family of four – is available for free download. Marzena Gersho, Director of Communications and National Programs for Food Banks Canada, describes her experience working to improve food security for Canadians.
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Each month, we receive surplus food from grocery stores and our partnerships with different companies to prevent food from going to waste and provide for families in need. We have constant communication with manufacturers to maintain the consistency of high-quality food. We ensure that there is food handling integrity and that there are no risks for consumers such as packaging mishaps.
How do you ensure food from donors is safe to distribute? We have a free food handling program which trains and educates employees about food safety standards and knowledge on how to reduce foodborne illnesses. It includes numerous resources available in French and English that identify issues with food safety practices and how to develop new methods to maintain safety for food bank recipients.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? I love working with all the amazing people from the food banks and the valuable work we do has a good purpose. Especially with the grant, it’s great to see the excitement from volunteers and employees to be able to help families. There’s also excitement from those who come to food banks because they are able to receive nutritious food when they need it most.
Other than the food donations, how do food banks provide assistance for low-income families? There are community kitchen programs that educate low-income individuals on how to use the food provided by the food bank, learn how to make different meals, plan menus, grocery shop on a budget, and read food labels to make good food choices. This is a networking opportunity for people to support and receive advice from one another. There are also community gardens that teach participants how to grow fresh vegetables in their own gardens.
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