Each item that comes through the doors at Winnipeg Harvest is carefully checked over by volunteers.
“We get our volunteers to actually check the expiration date first. They know exactly how long they’re still good,” said Keren Taylor-Hughes, CEO of Winnipeg Harvest.
This is an important step because any food that is damaged or leaking cannot be used, but something simply dented or past its best before date is still good to eat, and for a lot longer than you may think.
Taylor-Hughes said Winnipeg Harvest follows Health Canada regulations on the shelf life of items.
“Really, it can be up to 12 to 24 months [past], and sometimes even longer,” said Hughes. “We do not have any food that we think is not suitable for ourselves to eat, and that’s what we use and it actually goes a long way here.”
University of Manitoba food scientist Claudia Narvaez agrees. She said shelf-stable foods like canned goods or pastas are safe to eat indefinitely, so long as they are stored properly.
“If it’s still sealed, nobody opened it, you can still eat it after the best before date because it’s going to be safe,” said Narvaez.
The biggest difference you’ll notice with non-perishable food which is long past the best before date is the quality, but Narvaez said there is no risk.
“They may change flavour, odour, colour. Maye the taste is going to be a little off, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to hurt you,” said Narvaez.
Taylor-Hughes said it’s pretty rare Winnipeg Harvest receives donations that have to be thrown out.
“Last year we claimed food from retailers as well as from our donations, and it was almost 12 million pounds,” said Taylor-Hughes. “We’re still getting a lot of really good and viable food, so we’re really grateful for that.”
Winnipeg Harvest serves 64,000 Manitobans each month and has 200 volunteers hard at work daily making sure items are good to eat.
A list of the top ten most needed items is available on the Winnipeg Harvest website.