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Freed Food Society coming to a store shelf near you

Non-profit secures kitchen to ramp up production of upcycled foods



Since winning the Whistler Centre for Sustainability's Social Ventures Challenge in September, The Freed Food Society has managed to capitalize on that momentum with plans to bring their products to a store shelf near you. The local non-profit launched in March with the ambitious plan to take a small chunk out of the $31 billion in food that Canada wastes every year and turn it into something delicious. Since then, it's signed deals with Creekside Market and The Grocery Store to accept expired produce that can't be sold but is still fit to eat, creating a wide range of canned and jarred goods.

But the one thing hampering the organization was its lack of a commercial kitchen. Fortunately, the Whistler Golf Club has turned over the keys to its clubhouse and Freed Food Society will have kitchen space to operate until mid-April.

"Obviously it's a big plus for us," said marketing manager Felix Vallieres. "It allows us to move from selling in farmers' markets to actually put our products on the shelves at supermarkets."

The group is now in talks with several Sea to Sky stores to hopefully begin offering a selection of jams, condiments and pickled produce before Christmas.

It's a major step forward for a company that began with a crazy idea between its two founders, Patrick Henry and Pol Lapeira, who recently stepped down as director to move back to his native Spain, at least temporarily.

"Any ideas he had were really valuable in the past and there's always going to be a door open for him here," said Vallieres.

Henry has taken over the directorship and has welcomed new Executive Chef Marc Caron, formerly of Bearfoot Bistro, to the fore.

"He's not only a friend, but an amazing chef as well," said Vallieres.

The move into retail stores isn't the only big change afoot at the Freed Food Society. Thanks to an expanded production capacity, event catering is now another option for Henry and his team. There have also been talks about launching the society in other parts of the world. The website has gotten a complete overhaul and a new Internet cooking show is also in the works.

"There's so many cooking shows out there so it's not going to be in competition with those guys," Vallieres explained. "I think what's going to be fun, because it's not something you see too often, is showing people how to reuse these products. People run out of imagination to put these foods back on the table, so we want to get people aware of all the (food) waste that's out there."

That educational component is something near and dear to the group's heart. They will launch a school program in the New Year and presented as part of the Nourish series at Cornucopia last month. More than just talking the talk, however, the Freed Food Society has lived up to its ethos, salvaging 3,690 pieces of produce from the trash can and donating 262 pounds of canned goods to the food bank in the span of only eight months.

While the future undoubtedly looks bright, Vallieres said the non-profit remains focused on the here and now.

"We've been discussing a bit about the longer term but we really want to concentrate on what's happening now so we can really let it evolve," said Vallieres. "We're really hoping to see the company grow."

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