LONDON, ONT. -- Despite COVID-19, numbers for the first half of the year are better than expected for the Community Refresh Program, a partnership between the London Food Bank, City of London and roughly 20 grocery stores.

The goal of the program is to divert food that would be destined for the landfill and distribute it to families in need through the London Food Bank.

“It’s an environmental effort that just does some great social good,” says Glen Pearson, the food bank's co-executive director, of the two-fold effect of the program.

“So we’ve got about 275,000 pounds, just a little over that in 2020 so far. So we’re only halfway through the year."

According to Jay Stanford from the City of London, 940 tonnes of emissions were avoided in the first three years of the program.

Paul van der Werf, an adjunct assistant professor at Western University, says the emissions that come from food sitting in the landfill is devastating to the environment.

“When that kind of food ends up in the landfill, it creates things such as methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.”

While it might only be a ‘drop in the bucket’ according to van der Werf, in the grand scheme of things it’s an important step for retail grocers to make.

Pearson adds that the stores have been enthusiastic about participating.

“I will say for the grocery stores, they know when this stuff is about ready to move out of the store, so they get it to us a few days early.”

That increases the food bank’s ability to distribute the time-sensitive food to people who need it.

“The hamper that would normally be for four days, lets say for a family four days of food, now is up to six or seven. Because of all of the addition of the fresh food. The eggs, the dairy, the other things that go with it, the breads.”

More grocery stores are expected to join the program this fall depending on what happens with the pandemic, growing the food supply for families in need and decreasing the environmental impact on the city’s landfill.