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Sobeys Quebec fights food waste in customer kitchens

Quebec chefs and grocers unite to teach consumers how to minimize food waste

It may seem counter intuitive for a company that makes its money selling food to participate in a program that aims to teach people how to pare down their grocery bill.

But Sobeys Quebec spokesperson Marie-Noëlle Cano says it makes perfect sense for the retailer to sponsor a cross-province series of chef- and environmental expert-led public workshops on ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen.

"This is a natural fit for us," Cano told Canadian Grocer shortly after the official launch of À vos frigos! (To your refrigerators!) in Montreal on May 27.

"Of course we want to sell food.  But we also want to empower people to buy and eat better, and waste less."

Starting this fall, 20 Quebec chefs from program partner La Tablée des Chefs will begin offering tips and tricks on how to recoup over-ripe and/or misshapen fruits and vegetables and past-due-date cheeses, yogurts and other foods in up to 100 workshops.

The chefs will be accompanied by environmentalists from Le Jour de la Terre Québec, who will provide information on the world's food waste problem, and on recycling methods such as composting.

The 45-minute sessions will be held in IGA and IGA Extra stores, as well as some community venues, until the end of Nov.

Consumers have until July 15 to sign up for a workshop on the organizer's website.

Financing for the free workshops is being provided by the Eco IGA Fund.  Created in 2008 and managed by the Jour de la Terre environmental group, the fund has been financed by Quebec IGA store owners to the tune of nearly $7 million.

That money has been used to finance some 900 environmental projects across la belle province, as well the distribution of more than 50,000 rain barrels.

"We'll look at things like picking produce according to need (and) using those old or bruised blueberries and bananas to make smoothies," said Jean-François Archambeault, executive director of La Tablée des chefs, a non-profit social group that both feeds families and teaches people to be self sufficient in the kitchen.

According to Archambeault, the upcoming workshops will help chefs show people how to turn back the clock with some time-tested and old-fashioned cooking methods.

"In today's world many young adults have the reflex to throw away bread that is moist or celery that is soft, or chicken bones," he said.  "But earlier generations used those foods in a soup or whatever."

Cano agrees.  "These workshops are really about getting back to basics, and getting maximum value for the foods you buy," she told Canadian Grocer.  "Helping our customers to develop better and healthier habits makes them happier - and us, too."

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