Quest Food Exchange Rescues and Redistributes Food to Vancouver’s Neediest

The jaw-dropping reality of Vancouver's food waste, BC's sinful child poverty rates and the local organization connecting hungry mouths with a meal.

Credit: Trevor Jansen

Quest Volunteer prices recovered food for redistribution – Trevor Jansen

Vancouver’s Quest Food Exchange makes food that would ordinarily be trashed available to low-income Lower Mainlanders


It is jaw dropping to realize how much high quality food is produced locally (or even imported) and then simply thrown into the garbage. I’m not talking about leftovers scraped into the bin or even fruits and vegetables discarded for a minor blemish in high-end markets; I’m talking about entire pallets of perfectly good food.


Why perfectly good food is thrown away

Sometimes a marketing company will order a run of peanut butter jars with several different labels just to see what a wall of them will look like. Then they chuck them out. If a forklift crashes a pallet of soup cans, it is normal to toss the whole pallet rather than pay someone to go through the pile to determine which cans are still saleable. A produce shipper will ditch crates and crates of rapidly ripening fruit if demand has been met for the moment. There are all sorts of reasons that you have never thought of for throwing away warehouses worth of food each week.


The Quest Food Exchange is a not-for-profit organization that has devised a food recovery and redistribution model that makes this food available to low-income individuals and families in the Lower Mainland. More than that, it provides assistance in meal planning, budgeting and job skills development. Quest also has a community kitchen that prepares ready-to-eat meals for individuals and social service agencies to purchase for their clients.


Despite these amazing efforts, Quest still is only able to rescue a fraction of the commercial food wasted—a shame considering BC has the highest rates of child poverty in the Canada and programs like Quest’s put food in the bellies of more poor families at a minimum of resources.


Check out the Quest Food Exchange website for ways to make a donation or volunteer your time. 


Photos: Quest Food Exchange

I spent a couple days photographing staff, volunteers and clients for their website redesign. These are just a few of the faces of the Quest Food Exchange:


Photos by Trevor Jansen



Vancouver photographer Trevor Jansen

Trevor Jansen is a photographer based in Vancouver, shooting everything from international print assignments to local weddings. He explores the Vancouver experience through his series of photo essays with the assumption that imaginary boundaries can and should be crossed. People aren’t as unapproachable as they seem and more often than not, they will smile for the camera. Website