Tax credit urged to spur food bank donations

Incentive for businesses would reduce 'endless' food waste, help feed the needy, advocates say

Marilyn Hermann

The chair of Food Banks BC is backing a proposal to create a federal tax break that encourages businesses to donate more food to local charities.

Marilyn Herrmann, who is also executive director of the Surrey Food Bank Society, says there are “endless” amounts of usable food that could be retrieved from restaurants, grocers and other suppliers that now throw it out.

The National Zero Waste Council proposes the federal government create a new tax credit for businesses linked to the fair market value of food they donate to charities such as food banks, shelters and soup kitchens.

Herrmann said while many businesses already strive to donate usable food, such an incentive could prod others to both save on taxes and help put more unused food to good use.

“It’s not even waste, it’s perfectly good food,” Herrmann said. “Something that may just be undersized according to a grocery chain’s standard doesn’t mean it’s bad food.”

Lower Mainland food banks regularly retrieve huge skids of food that producers or retailers have been unable to sell fast enough.

“Sometimes we come back with incredible donations,” Herrmann said, adding dairy producers sometimes overproduce yogurt and donate large volumes that are too close to their expiry dates.

It’s a retail reality that consumers won’t buy those products.

“People are so hung up on these best before dates that as soon as it hits the day, they just throw it out without even checking the quality of the product.”

A report by the National Zero Waste Council doesn’t estimate how much lost tax revenue a new credit might cost Ottawa.

But it projects a range of benefits that would result from a more efficient food system.

One of those benefits would be less organic waste going into landfills – Metro Vancouver estimates the drop in garbage resulting from the tax credit would mean reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 275,000 cars off the road.

Metro Vancouver regional district directors vote next Friday on whether to endorse the idea.

BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostenson said the biggest worry for restaurateurs donating food to charities is ensuring it stays food safe and doesn’t make anyone sick.

“If they can get through the issues of food safety and sanitation, I think it’s a great idea,” Tostenson said. “I don’t think business even needs a tax incentive to do it. I think they’d just do it if they can do it in a way that doesn’t create liability.”

Other critics have suggested the tax break could lead to businesses dumping unusable food on food banks, and increasing their disposal costs.

“There definitely are challenges to this, no question,” Herrmann said. “You have to have the capacity to handle the volumes of food that are being offered to you.”

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who chairs Metro’s zero waste committee, said the tax credit would be worthwhile, even if it’s not a silver bullet curing food waste.

“Our hope is this would lead to a far bigger uptake and get a lot of that edible food into the hands of charities that can divide it up and use it effectively.”

An estimated 170,000 tonnes of edible food – equivalent to 300 million meals – ends up in Canadian landfills every year.

In monetary terms, that’s an estimated $31 to $107 billion of waste in the production, shipping and fair market value of the food.

“We know how much good food is wasted every day,” Metro board chair Greg Moore said. “For some groups, the tax incentive will make a huge difference.”

Meanwhile, Herrmann and Food Banks BC are also pressing the BC Liberals to keep a promise they made in the 2013 election campaign.

The party’s platform committed the provincial government to “give growers a tax credit of 25 per cent of the wholesale value of food donated to a food bank.”

Herrmann said that would be a useful incentive that both helps farmers and encourages them to donate produce and fruit that could help feed the needy.

Undersized apples that are good but too small for retailers are a prime example of what might be contributed in larger volumes instead of being dumped by the truckload.

Just Posted

B.C. serves up $6.3 million boost to province’s respite program

The announcement, in Surrey, aims to give parents of special needs children a break

Schedule released for South Surrey-hosted Americas Olympic Softball Qualifier

Canadian national women’s fastpitch team to open tournament against Cuba

Biting and jumping are paw-sitives when raising a police dog puppy

18-week-old Maya is training with Delta police to one day take a bite out of crime

OUR VIEW: Sometimes, Surrey, it’s hard not to get riled by rules

Imagine life without rules. We wouldn’t have to pay taxes, or eat our broccoli

Nominate someone now for 2019 Surrey Community Leader Awards

Easy online form for nominations in 11 categories, with reception planned this fall

Rents in most Canadian cities are unaffordable for lower-income earners: study

Roughly one-third of households, or 4.7 million, are renters

Rare white ravens spotted again on Vancouver Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

B.C. government seeks advice on reviving Interior forest industry

Public website opens as meetings start with community leaders

RCMP use helicopter and police dog to search for suspect on Sts’ailes First Nation

Small reserve near Agassiz surrounded by police vehicles, helicopter, ERT

North Delta happenings: week of July 18

Events and community listings for North Delta

Missing Vancouver Island woman believed to be on mainland

Rhonda Stevenson, 43, last seen July 13 in central Nanaimo

Psychics, drones being used to search for missing Chilliwack woman with dementia

Drones, psychics, dogs and more have been employed to help find Grace Baranyk, 86

Missing Greater Victoria man last seen in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Jonah Donato, 40, travelled to the mainland in June

Most Read