ReFood serves up thousands of meals, reducing food wastage

Two thousand meals. That’s how many Danison Buan serves up in a typical week.

Buan is the founder of ReFood, a social enterprise that picks up dated groceries, redistributing them to different charitable organizations that can repurpose them into healthy meals for those who need it in the community.

Buan, an SFU health sciences student, picks up the food three times a week from local supermarkets with which he has partnered.

The groceries, which include meats and dairy products, are either close to their date of expiry, been deemed excess or have nicks and bruises and would have been thrown away. Food wastage in Canada is estimated to total $31 billion a year, according to a 2014 report from Value Chain Management International.

ReFood sounds like a simple enough concept, but surprisingly there aren’t many people that do what Buan is doing. He says what makes it work is the fast turnaround resulting from coordinating his pickup schedule with the organizations that have people who need to be fed.

After he picks up the available food, Buan brings it to the organizations and provides guidance on how to repurpose it. The coordinated approach allows the food to be cooked and consumed within two days of pickup.

His understanding of how to maximize food and minimize spoilage comes from his experience as a trained chef and restaurateur.

“There are a lot of legalities that discourage grocery stores from giving away their food. They’re worried about someone — knock on wood — getting sick, so they rather throw it away. People are protected by the Food Donor Encouragement Act,” says Buan, "but as a chef I know how to take the right safety procedures to best utilize this food. For example, food that is stored properly could last beyond its expiry date.”

Ultimately, Buan isn’t interested in how much food he’s diverted from the landfills or how much money he’s made. He’s just interested in how many people he can help. His goal is to turn ReFood into a sustainable social enterprise and get it up to 10,000 meals a week. “When doing ReFood, it’s always been about impact," he says. "How many people can we feed? How many people can we do it consistently for?”