Pictured are Meredith Funston of Cranbrook Food Recovery (left), Shannon Grey Duncan of Kimberley Food Recovery (middle) and Wade Jarvis of Bohemian Spirits (right). The three have teamed up to divert bread from the landfill and turn it into ethanol, which is used to make hand sanitizer. (Corey Bullock file)

Cranbrook, Kimberley organizations team up to turn excess bread into ethanol

Local food recovery programs have teamed up with Bohemian Spirits to keep bread out of the landfill

  • Mar. 2, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The Cranbrook and Kimberley Food Recovery programs are at it again with their creative ways of redistributing food waste, this time partnering with Bohemian Spirits to turn excess bread into ethanol.

Although the Cranbrook and Kimberley Food Recovery programs are separate entities, they often have similar issues. In this case, a combined 1,000 pounds of extra bread. They decided to team up to tackle this particular conundrum and came up with a very creative solution.

Meredith Funston, Coordinator of Cranbrook Food Recovery, explained that the Cranbrook recovery program frequently has more bread than they know what to do with.

Both food recovery programs divert food out of landfills by redistributing it to the community. This happens by way of the food banks, breakfast programs, giving food to farmers as feed, and more. Most of the food comes from local grocery stores, like Save On Foods. The food is still fit for consumption but has simply been taken off the shelves because of quality control (a bruised apple) or because it’s past the best before date.

READ MORE: Cranbrook Food Recovery programs celebrate success of food diversion

Funston explained that the programs give as much bread away as they can to people first, then to farmers. The last resort is the landfill. They also had an excess of sugary items, like candy canes from Christmas time. Sugar can be a benefit when it comes to the distillation process.

“It’s obviously best if we can distribute the extra food to humans, but we tend to end up with a lot of bread, and sometimes a lot of unhealthy, sugary foods. We don’t want to just unload the issue onto farmers either,” she said.

The Kimberley Food Recovery depot is part of the Healthy Kimberley organization. Shannon Grey Duncan, Coordinator for the Kimberley Food Recovery depot, says that their mission is to provide healthy food for people first.

“Bread doesn’t have a dense nutritional quality,” she said. “We try to focus more of our time on healthier foods.”

Because the Cranbrook Food Recovery program has more input sources (more grocery stores and businesses in need of redistribution), they typically end up with more bread.

Storing the bread also becomes an issue. Where does one put 1,000 pounds of bread?

Enter, Bohemian Spirits.

“We were doing some research, and we found that a few breweries in the Kootenays had been turning bread into beer,” Grey Duncan explained. “So we started to think, what is everyone else doing? Then, I ran into Wade [of Bohemian Spirits] and it just clicked.”

Their serendipitous encounter ended up being a success.

Wade Jarvis, owner of Bohemian Spirits – a gin distillery in Kimberley, explained that he was excited to try the experiment.

“Because we are a distillery, we aren’t as picky about the type of bread. For example, a brewery might not want 1,000 pounds of different kids of bread,” he said. “We were able to take the bread and distill it down to ethanol in about two weeks, with little to no bread particles leftover. The bread totally liquified.”

He adds that after the first distillation, they were left with around 270 litres of 25 proof ethanol.

“We’ll distill that down again and it will end up to be around 75 litres at around 80 per cent ethanol,” Jarvis explained.

The process is quite similar to gin making, which involves turning grain into alcohol with a lower percentage point.

Jarvis also has experience with making ethanol. He started producing it at the beginning of the pandemic and continues to do so. He even donated over 100 litres to the community last March.

READ MORE: Bohemian Spirits provides free ethanol for hand sanitizer

READ MORE: Canadian distillers petition government to lower excise tax rate

Going forward, Jarvis says that this could become a regular occurrence, say once a month, depending on the need from the recovery programs.

“We could add more bread, up to 2,000 pounds,” Jarvis said. “It’s not a super laborious process and I think we could reduce the turn around to one week.”

Both Funston and Grey Duncan are happy that the experiment worked and that this may be a solution going forward. They also encourage the community to reach out to the programs if they are in need of bread.

“This was just an experiment at first, but we’re happy to see that it has worked out,” said Grey Duncan.

“I also appreciate the fact that this is fun, it lifts the spirits,” said Funston.

“We are totally different organizations, but there are so many parallels and it’s great when we have opportunities to help one another with the challenges we face,” Grey Duncan said.


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Pictured are Meredith Funston of Cranbrook Food Recovery (left), Shannon Grey Duncan of Kimberley Food Recovery (middle) and Wade Jarvis of Bohemian Spirits (right). The three have teamed up to divert bread from the landfill and turn it into ethanol, which is used to make hand sanitizer. They are pictured in front of approximately 270 litres of ethanol that was once bread. This will need a second distillation. (Corey Bullock file)

Wade Jarvis, owner of Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley, is pictured amongst bins and boxes of bread totalling 1,000 pounds. Jarvis successfully turned the bread into ethanol, keeping it out of the landfill. (Shannon Grey Duncan file)

Pictured is approximately 270 litres of 25 proof ethanol, made from 1,000 pounds of bread. This will be distilled a second time and end up to be approximately 75 litres at 80 proof. (Corey Bullock file)

Pictured is 1,000 pounds of bread in the boiling tank at Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley. It was successfully turned into ethanol with less than a hand full of bread particles left over. (Shannon Grey Duncan file)

Pictured is 1,000 pounds of bread in the boiling tank at Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley. It was successfully turned into ethanol with less than a hand full of bread particles left over. (Shannon Grey Duncan file)

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