Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International release new research: Canada’s Invisible Food Network

TORONTO, ON, Oct. 7, 2021 – For every Loblaws, Metro, Safeway, Northern or Sobeys in Canada, there are four food charities providing food to families who cannot always afford to feed themselves. That’s over 61,000 non-profit organizations providing food at no or low cost to people in need compared to the 15,344 grocery stores in this country. If you put a dollar value on the food distributed by these non-profits, the $33 billion value in food provided in 2020 would make them the second-largest grocery store in Canada in sales volume.

These are just some of the shocking findings uncovered in a new report, Canada’s Invisible Food Network, released today by Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, and Value Chain Management International, a leading public and industry voice in the area of food waste. 

Following Second Harvest’s 2019 report, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste, which first revealed the 11.2 million metric tonnes of edible, potentially rescuable food wasted in Canada each year, Canada’s Invisible Food Network is the first report to reveal the massive, invisible patchwork of community organizations that support an estimated 6.7 million vulnerable Canadians, or 18 percent of the country’s population, in 2020. 

“No matter where you live, chances are you live near an organization that provides food to people,” said Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest. “And it’s not just food banks – our research shows that churches, temples, mosques, schools, seniors centres, shelters and many other community spaces are feeding Canadians every day.“ 

This ground-breaking research features many Canadian firsts:

  • It’s the first to identify all nongovernmental organizations in Canada that are supporting people with food (61,310)
  • It’s the first to map where these food programs and charities are located across the country
  • It’s the first to measure how much food is being given out per year (over 10 billion lbs. in 2020)
  • It’s the first to quantify supply vs. demand and identify a shortfall (162 million lbs shortfall in 2020)
  • It is the first to measure the food types NGOs need most and least 
  • It is the first to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the demand for food charity. (72% increase in people served in 2020)

“Our research shows that the charitable food system is a huge patchwork of vital but disconnected services. That’s not a sustainable model of a resilient food system, especially for our most vulnerable populations,” said Nikkel. “What adds to the urgency is that millions of tonnes of unsold healthy food are going to landfill every year. We need to start bridging the food rescue gap now and this research gives us a literal map to move forward.”

Canada’s Invisible Food Network, with a regional breakdown of the findings, can be viewed at:

Members of the media are invited to attend an in-person or virtual presentation of the research today,  Thursday, October 7 at 9:30a.m., with Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest. In-person attendees must show proof of double vaccination and wear a mask. Q&A will follow. The in-person presentation is at 1450 Lodestar Road, Unit 18 in North York.  Those attending online can register for the virtual presentation at:

Second Harvest would like to thank the Walmart Foundation for their continued support of Second Harvest through providing the necessary funding for this study, as we all work towards sustainable solutions that will eliminate enormous food loss and waste.

About Second Harvest

Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue organization and an expert in perishable food recovery. Every year we expand our network with industry to include more farms, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and food service. We work with thousands of businesses across the food supply chain, to reduce the amount of edible food going to waste, which in turn stops millions of pounds of greenhouse gases from damaging our environment. The food Second Harvest recovers is redirected to charity and non-profit organizations, ensuring people have access to the healthy food they need. Second Harvest is a global thought leader on food loss and waste and perishable food rescue and delivery and continually innovates processes and shares methods, to create a better future for everyone.

About Value Chain Management International
Value Chain Management International (VCMI) has authored/co-authored several publications on food loss and waste and is a leading public and industry voice in bringing awareness to the opportunities and solutions surrounding food waste reduction, traceability, and the environment. VCMI measures waste within the overall analysis of food systems to create pragmatic and sustainable solutions for businesses and industry organizations along the value chain. VCMI applies specialized value chain diagnostic tools to detect where waste occurs and to determine how to eliminate it. VCMI then participates in the implementation of new practices to solve the issues and ensure successful outcomes.


For further information or to schedule an interview: 

Gemma Todd, Collective Motion for Second Harvest
M: 647-971-6426