Fourteen years ago, Paul Duteau decided to participate in charity work that would later become a weekly ritual. 

At his sister’s request, Duteau started delivering leftover food from a local coffee shop to those in need around his community. She had told him how much food was going to waste and wanted to make a difference. 

What began as a favour and simple act of generosity turned into a long-term commitment for Duteau. 

Sandra Duteau (left) and her husband Paul Duteau (right). PHOTO SUPPLIED BY: SANDRA DUTEAU

COBS Bread accepted his application to deliver their leftovers, kicking off a long-running partnership striving to feed the community. 

Major waste

A food waste study conducted by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, in 2017, found that  30-40 per cent of annually produced food along the value chain is wasted. 

A food trends report made in 2021 demonstrated that retail supply chains account for around 12 per cent of all preventable food loss and waste, which is a significant drop from the previous years. 

However, food loss and waste is still ongoing issue for many Canadians. Impacting consumers and manufacturing on the economic, social and environmental levels. 

According to a 2021 report produced by the Alberta government, oversupply is one of the main reasons for increased waste. Many companies have a lack inventory management, which leads to fresh products being left untouched and unnoticed. Inventory planning is also an issue in food waste management. With many businesses worrying about consumers’ perspectives of part-filled shelves, stores become overloaded and leftover food is regularly wasted. 

Baking a difference

Every Monday and Saturday night, Duteau designates his time to pick up nearly $2,000 worth of bread, filling his car to the brim with plastic bags containing unsold bread and sweets made during the week.

Bags of leftover bread and sweets are ready to be delivered. PHOTO BY: ANJOLIE THERRIEN

According to Jeremy Banning, who owns and operates several COBS locations, the donation process, although important, can be challenging.

“As much as it’s a good thing that the free bread at the end of the day, instead of going in the dumpster goes somewhere nice, there is actually quite a lot of work that goes into making sure that we can get it into the right hands,” says Banning. 

All for bun and bun for all

At the start of his volunteering, Duteau says that there were only a few people on his delivery list, but over time the list of those in need grew larger. 

“It’s funny it spreads like wildfire, I joke, but people love it when they get on our bread line,” he said.

He now delivers to 17 single moms, a number of seniors homes, churches, and those unable to leave their homes.

Duteau isn’t the only one taking on the delivery list. Banning says that COBS donates its leftovers to several charities around the city, aimed at helping communities in need. 

“We are always looking for good causes, that’s our number one,” explains Banning. “It’s also about good partnerships and having people we can rely on.” 

‘Dough’ right by your community 

Volunteering has taught Duteau that for those struggling to make ends meet, even a loaf of bread can be too steep an expense. 

High food demand and increased retail pricing continue to be a concern, leaving many ​​low-income households struggling to properly feed their families.

In 2017, studies found that one in eight Canadian families struggled to put food on the table, 32 per cent of which were children. In 2021, 42 per cent of Alberta’s food bank visitors consisted of families, including young children. 

“It’s a very fulfilling thing for me. It’s one thing that I can do for society and to help out the people that are really in need.”

Paul Duteau

According to Duteau, if more individuals participated in donation initiatives, like this one, families and communities could be given access to resources needed to thrive while also helping to decrease the city’s food loss and waste numbers. 

“If this was on a larger scale and more people did this, you wouldn’t have families going to bed at night without having a meal,” he said. “That would be a wonderful thing, you know.” 

Leftover bread and sweets in COBS Bread bags going out to be delivered. PHOTO BY: ANJOLIE THERRIEN

Duteau isn’t the only one holding out hope for the future. The Leftovers Foundation managed to divert over 600,000 pounds of food from landfills, in 2020, distributing it to those in need around communities.

The Food Rescue App has also made great strides for the province, enabling volunteers to pick ideal times and routes that best fit their schedules. According to a report, the app made it possible for 221 businesses to donate food to those in need.  

Even with programs in place to help diminish food loss and waste, there is still a great deal of work to be done to help feed those in need. 

The city is always on the lookout for new volunteers to help ensure that everyone in need is granted the opportunity to eat.

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