Surplus Food Rescue Program


The Surplus Food Rescue Program is a $50 million initiative which will help to support Canada’s food system, food processors, and food producers, and distributors to help  ensure food availability for all Canadians.

Funding will be used to help manage and redirect existing surpluses to organizations addressing food insecurity and ensure that these surplus products are not wasted.

COVID-19 and Surplus Food

The impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in the disruptions to areas of Canada’s food system, as it forced the near closure of the restaurant and hospitality industry in Canada and the United States. Some producers across Canada are left with surpluses of quality food, while increased demand from grocery stores alone is not expects to clear the inventory before it spoils.

Another impact of the pandemic is an increase in demand for food from food banks and other food security organizations in communities across Canada.

The Surplus Food Rescue Program will help to address these imbalances by providing new funding for the repurposing and redistribution of surplus food to vulnerable Canadians. 

The Program

In ongoing consultations with industry and government stakeholders, the program is designed to address urgent, high volume, highly perishable surplus products falling under horticulture, meat and fish and seafood.

The program will ensure that the food needs of vulnerable populations in Canada will be addressed, positive relationships with community food providers will be maintained, and efforts to reduce food waste will be supported.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will administer an inclusive and challenge-based approach for non-profit and for-profit organizations in order to ensure coordination and efficiency within the complex supply chain partnerships from wholesalers, distributors, processors to food service agencies.

Priority consideration for surplus commodities that have immediate risk of loss will be determined first. For example, potatoes and some aquaculture products need immediate processing or will be lost or destroyed.

The Surplus Food Rescue Program will award contributions to organizations (industry groups, processors, distributors, food serving agencies, regional and municipal governments and agencies (can include schools or school boards) who:

  • can acquire and move the most surplus product (must identify amount to be moved)
  • use the most cost-effective approach (for acquiring food (acquiring product at or below the cost of production or through donations as applicable)
  • use the most cost-effective approach for processing (only process if cannot be distributed otherwise) and at minimal cost
  • are most efficient, from wholesale purchase to food serving agencies (drawing down on surplus quickly)
  • can make sure food reaches the most vulnerable and remote communities, especially northern communities (target of up to 10 per cent for all food under the program)
  • have partnerships already established along the supply chain including food serving agencies

Applicants must demonstrate an ability to handle the full logistical requirements for acquiring, processing, transporting and ensuring shelf-life stability of surplus commodities with a target to make available of up 10 per cent of surplus food under the program to the northern communities. 

  • Surplus commodities may be fresh or need to be processed and packaged into shelf-stable products for storage or distribution to vulnerable populations
  • All surplus commodities are to be donated once processed (surplus food is not to be resold)
  • Priority consideration will be given to surplus commodities that have immediate risk of loss due to high perishability

The Food Policy for Canada

The Surplus Food Rescue Program is an emergency measure that the government has created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which also meets the objectives identified in the Food Policy for Canada.

The Food Policy for Canada seeks to create a healthier and more sustainable food system in Canada; one that builds on the Government’s ambitious agenda to support the growth of Canada’s farmers and food businesses.

Responsible for one in eight jobs across the country, Canada’s food sector is a powerhouse of the economy, particularly in rural communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of pressure on our food system. Now more than ever many vulnerable Canadians are not able to reliably access sufficient amounts of food.

In addition, before the pandemic, it was estimated that more than 11 million metric tons of food are wasted every year – worth nearly $50 billion. The pressures of the pandemic  have added to this.

Related product

News release: Government of Canada implements surplus food rescue program to help alleviate food concerns of vulnerable Canadians


Jean-Sébastien Comeau
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
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