The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many challenges that we face around the issues of food waste and long supply chains. It is impossible to reduce the carbon footprint of our food without considering food system emissions. While the pandemic has drawn attention to the shortcomings of our systems, it has also given committed, motivated individuals an opportunity to get creative in their approach to food production, distribution, and waste reduction.
In March 2020, Chef TJ Conwi, co-owner of Ono Vancouver, recognized that there was going to be an increased need for nutritious food for those in need in Vancouver. “When COVID hit, me and a few other chefs from town, we’re talking and trying to figure out how we can make good use of our time and our skills and try to see how we can help people,” recounts Conwi.
We started cooking food that was already prepped and ready to go for service during that time, because obviously after it [COVID] hit, there were several different restaurants that were still cooking and then trying to figure out how to get rid of the surplus,” says Conwi.
He would use sauces and items that were already prepared for the week from restaurants, finish preparing the meals, then distribute them to local charities in the Downtown Eastside. Ono and his partners prepare over 1200 meals per week and distribute them to organizations like Aboriginal Mothers Centre Society, Watari Counseling and Support Service Society, and A Loving Spoonful Foundation.