Stuart Lilley, founder of ReFeed Farm in Langley, created the company to fill a gap in our food system by filtering food considered waste from grocery stores to food banks, and repurpose non-edible food through a worm farm.
Coming from a background in waste management, Lilley was inspired to do something different after witnessing first-hand how much food is wasted.
On a daily basis, he moved five tonne loads of produce on pallets that were earmarked for disposal.
“All this food was anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent good – some 100 per cent good. I had no idea what was wrong with it, and it bothered me everyday,” he recalled.
Not only did it bother him because of the amount of food being wasted, but more because of the fact it was being wasted at all.
“Even in this system, we kept on forgetting about feeding people,”Lilley commented.
So, in 2019, Lilley founded ReFeed Farm as a way to address this missing piece.
A first of its kind, ReFeed Farm is a complete circular food system ensuring that food is rescued and used to its highest value, which is feeding people, he said.
The farm also helps farmers supply feed for their livestock.
“I wasn’t sure if others would share my vision, but they did. Through my work with food retailers, food banks, local farmers, and scientists… we started to make a real difference in the lives of people in the surrounding communities,” Lilley said.
In 2022 alone, ReFeed Farm rescued 11 million pounds of food that otherwise would have been sent to the landfill. Instead, Lilley explained that the food was 100 per cent utilized.
More than 1.32 million pounds of rescued produce fed people and 9 million pounds fed livestock, which saved 5,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and created 200 tonnes of nutrient rich soil amendments.
One program ReFeed offers the local community is its Bounty Boxes, which are 25 lbs of rescued produce for $25 per box that can be picked up each week.
“We have about 200 people that are really dependent on that,” he said.
However, ReFeed is facing shutdown if it doesn’t get funding soon.
“Running a facility like this takes significant money, and in October reality finally kicked me in the face. The grind of raising capital and the stress associated with monthly financial challenges were heavily weighing on me and my family,” Lilley shared.
After he received confirmation an investor had to back out due to their own financial situation, Lilley is switching gears to apply as a non-profit organization.
“Right now it’s a for-profit business, but I am in the process of setting us up as a non-profit as well so we have both pieces. I think it’s a really important aspect of this. We’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities because we were not a non-profit, even though we are doing the work of non-profits and supporting them.”
For now, this also means halting the manufacturing side of the farm.
“We’re trying to build an impact company and that isn’t necessarily always aligned with business. It’s purpose is doing what’s right for the community and environments. Trying to raise capital with a business model like that hasn’t been easy, so we are kind of being forced to take a step back from the product side of it,” Lilley explained.
And while ReFeed undergoes this transition, Lilley is asking the community for support to hopefully save the farm.
“This is why I come to you… I’ve come to realize how close we are to losing the human impact of the business, the part of the business that provides me with joy and all of those that have been touched by ReFeed since we started. It’s that realization of how important the work we are doing is, that I am reaching out to you today,” Lilley said.
A fundraiser has been created online to support ReFeed Farm at gofundme.com.
People interested in learning more can visit refeedcanada.ca or drop by the farm located at 7387 216th St.
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