When Rosanna Shillolo started volunteering as a food distributor at Sharing Place in 2020, she was impressed with the volume of fresh food and meals provided to local residents in need of food security.
However, whenever she handed out prepared meals, she noticed that they were all contained in plastic.
Since its inception in October 2020, the Meals-4-Change program has distributed just over 30,000 meals in partnership with several local agencies. Shillolo concluded that this was a lot of single-use plastic – way too much.
Nancy Hannah, Community Programs Supervisor at Sharing Place, agreed it was time to switch to more environmentally friendly packaging. She did some research and finally arrived at the new and improved sustainable products currently in use.
Why the change?
“In short, because it’s the right thing to do,” says Hannah. “With the Sharing Place Food Center’s new commercial kitchen opening this spring, and with the goal of creating more than 40,000 meals per year in this kitchen once we are up and running, we could not in good conscience be responsible for putting this amount of single-use plastic into the environment.
Hannah’s search for containers that met the Sharing Place’s needs (individual portions, freezer safe, microwave/oven safe and fully compostable or recyclable) proved to be a challenge.
“Several local businesses, including Shine Juice Bar, Lone Wolf Cafe and Crew Catering, which have already gone green, helped us find suppliers and allowed us to test the products that worked for them. In the end, we were thrilled to partner with Eco Guardian, a Canadian company based in Newmarket that specializes in eco-friendly food packaging.
To see www.ecoguardian.com.
The Meals-4-Change program creates soups, stews, sauces and individual meals using items donated by local grocery stores as part of its food recovery program. These meals are portioned, packaged, frozen, distributed and then reheated by those who receive them, in the microwave or in the oven. This calls for containers that are sturdy, transportable, leak-proof, freezer-proof, and able to withstand reheating.
“They must also meet the requirements of the City of Orillia’s green bin program,” says Hannah. “Eco Guardian had several container options that met all of these requirements, and as a bonus, they were competitively priced and from a Canadian company. They made the process of switching from plastic to compostable a very easy decision.
“The Sharing Place Food Center strives to be an organization that supports a circular food system. By partnering with local grocery stores and farmers, we’re building a stronger food community. By redistributing and sharing their excess meat and produce, we divert food that would otherwise go to waste.
The Sharing Place and Meals-4-Change program ensures that surplus food is used and consumed by individuals in the local community. When donations are plentiful, food is shared with other organizations that reach people in need of access to healthy food options. When all other avenues have been explored, local farmers are next in line, using the remains for animal feed.
“Eco-friendly packaging is just one more way to make these improvements,” says Hannah.
Anyone interested in sharing their knowledge of sustainable products can contact Hannah by phone at 705-327-4273, ext. 104, or by email at Nancy@SharingPlaceOrillia.org.