Millgrove students pitch food program for Hamilton’s needy

A group of Millgrove students want to make Hamilton a better place by diverting wasted food to those in need.

Since January, nine students at Millgrove Elementary School spent two lunch hours and recesses a week devising a plan to help feed some of the tens of thousands of Hamiltonians living in poverty.

As part of the city and public school board's joint Chase the Future 2041 initiative, students were challenged to come up with their vision for the city 25 years from now.

The Millgrove students selected food as their changemaker, but wanted a plan with "more longevity" than a food drive, said teacher Jennifer Kershaw.

They decided to find a way to divert food wasted at restaurants and grocery stores to food banks.

Eight-year-old Gabe Lacasse, who helped present the students' idea at a board of health meeting Monday, noted grocery stores throw out large bins of "perfectly edible" food each week.

"All these people need help getting food," Lacasse, a Grade 2 student, told councillors. "Why can't this food go on their tables, not in the landfill?"

The students conducted their experiment to see what would happen to food past its best before date.

The answer? "They were still perfectly good to eat," Lacasse said.

So they got to work — conducting interviews with food banks, farmers and grocery store managers and researching other programs, which led them to the Supermarket Recovery Program.

The program, which aims to send still edible products to food programs instead of being wasted, started as a pilot in Montreal and has since expanded to the rest of Quebec and British Columbia. In this year's budget, the province dedicated $600,000 to the program.

"We want the City of Hamilton to be next," said Elana Longridge, a Grade 4 student who also presented Monday.

Councillors commended the students for their work on the project.

Ward Coun. Judi Partridge put forward a motion to have staff consider including the students' suggestions in the city's food strategy, which is set to be presented in December.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he hopes to be able to tell students at that time that "yes, we've got a program in place."

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