VANCOUVER -- Every day, a small army of volunteers checks their phones for a mission: to "rescue" unsold food, and deliver it to charities around Metro Vancouver.

They're using an app called Vancouver Food Runners. It's the brainchild of Tristan Jagger, who wanted to do something about the growing problem of food waste.

"Some people have sort of described this app as Uber Eats or DoorDash, but for free food, powered by volunteers," Jagger said.

The app sends notifications when any of their 88 partner businesses has unsold food to pick up. Volunteers then "claim" the rescue, and drop off the food to one of 35 different charities, including Covenant House and CityReach Care Society.

"They just wake up in the morning and check for food rescues and we can't even keep them on our app anymore."

The donors range from restaurants and bakeries to produce farms and even caterers.

Drew Munro, CEO of UpMeals, has arranged for weekly pickups, and calls food waste one of the "biggest concerns" in his industry.

"My background is in event catering and I know how much waste there is for things like events and large conferences," Munro said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Jagger said operations have ramped up.

"People have a little more time, people wanted to help."

Vancouver Food Runners has gone from 15 volunteers to 357, collecting 167,357 pounds of food, which she says is the equivalent of 139,464 meals.

An added bonus – rescuing food is pandemic-friendly.

"You're not entering any buildings, you have your privacy in your car, and you can leave it outside the charity and the food suppliers can leave it outside the door… It's a really safe way to volunteer," Jagger explained.

She said the food donations have allowed partner charities to focus on their main mission, or reallocate funds for pandemic-specific programming such as counselling.

"They didn't have to worry about food anymore."