food waste

Driving home last night from a meeting, in which we conveniently discussed food waste amongst other things, I was listening to CBC and the topic of food accessibility came up.  The stat is 4 million people in Canada are not getting enough food.  Provinces were graded on their cost of and accessibility of food; Ontario performed the best, and Manitoba the worst.  In a zero-waste journey, one is always thinking of ways to reduce waste in all aspects of life, including food waste.  Food waste is such a huge topic because we are failing in so many aspects of food security.

Food security on a global scale is… well… lacking to put it mildly, and it goes beyond the headlines that are presented to us.  Two examples that stick out in my mind are Venezuela’s food crisis, and the extreme famine in Yemen and surrounding areas that are in a state of emergency due to food shortages.  People are starving.  The reasons differ, from cost to accessibility, from corruption to atrocious agricultural practices, from lack of storage capabilities to war, poverty, etc…

When I hear, see, or read of these awful things, I always come back to food waste in the country I call home, and the big question: how is it that there are so many people without food, yet we throw nearly half of what we produce in the trash?  To be fed to the landfill.  To be unused.  Grown, maintained, and tossed.  For NOTHING.  Here you go, Earth, have some methane gas because although we used copious amounts of resources to grow this food, we just don’t want it anymore for literally no reason.

Apparently this is an over thirty billion dollar problem in Canada and nothing is being done about it.  Globally, over one billion tonnes of food are thrown away each year; can you even comprehend such a number?  And in our day in and day outs we may not even see what businesses throw away each day, but the pictures that are presented once you do some research are astonishing.

Supermarkets filling their dumpsters with items that are one day over expiry, farmers not being able to sell their products because corporations have an expectation of banana curvature and specific roundness, magazines “modeling” food for beautiful pictures just to throw out everything they presented so gorgeously for a glossy centerfold.

It also goes back to independent practices.  As a teacher I see a lot of food waste daily in the classroom.  Sometimes kids decide if they don’t like apples anymore or whatever is in their sandwich that the best place for that food is the garbage.  But what have they been taught at home about food waste and food production?  What have they seen adults modeling in the area of food waste?  Do they know any better?  Are they just copying what they see us doing?  We have spent a lot of time throughout the school year talking about what it takes to grow food, how many resources, and also what we can do instead of throwing out a whole apple or banana.

Composting is not the answer either.  Though I am a compost enthusiast, it is not the answer to food waste.  Just because your green pepper is starting to look a little wrinkly doesn’t mean you should just toss it in the compost bin.  I will say it is a better option than the bin just because it is able to decompose in the compost instead of rotting and producing methane gases in your plastic trash bin.  However, we can do better.

Use what you buy or buy less.

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Get creative with your meals and keep track of the food that is about to spoil.

Don’t get too hung up on recipes; stretch them, add to, or change it up.

Buy local, and ask for culled fruits to make jams or what have you.

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Educate yourself on what is being done about food waste where you live.

Evaluate your own habits and change something.

Buy the lone bananas.

Grow your own food.

There is not one quick solution, but it starts with your own habits.  You may not be able to stop your supermarket tomorrow for wasting food, but you can do your part in your own household, and you can also share your voice.  Ask businesses what they are doing to curb food waste.  You can also refuse to support businesses that are doing nothing.  People everywhere are starving, so how is it acceptable that nearly half of our produced food is thrown away?

Some countries are taking a stand.  In Europe, some countries are at least thinking of ideas, like offering tax breaks to businesses that donate their leftovers, or even making it illegal for supermarkets to waste food.  It is something.  We have to do something.  Our current practices are not sustainable and who are they really benefiting?

A quick tip sheet from the David Suzuki Foundation.

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Food waste infographic via coolharvest.org

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9 thoughts on “food waste

  1. Timely article, Nadine, especially with the earth springing forth with abundance. I’d like to see local grocery stores and farmers offer their food waste to groups/organizations providing meals for those who are less fortunate (Salvation Army, Street Angels, Cranbrook Food Action’s community kitchen in the Community Connections Society building, or the churches who offer meals). Stores/farmers can offer the food waste on a lower or no cost basis. Throwing it out doesn’t serve anyone, least of all our earth. When I have extra veggies from my garden, they go to Street Angels because they are close. Then there’s the community supported agriculture model. You’re right Nadine, we can do better.

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  2. The main thing that has reduced our food waste is to not have set meals and no meal planning. Every day I look at what we have left and create something out of it. Sometimes it ends up in odd combinations but that doesn’t bother us.
    There’s a movement called ‘Simple Eating’ that seems to be gaining a lot of traction at the moment. Which is basically what we already do as a family. Great post 🙂

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    • Thank you! I have also heard the opposite – that meal planning helps some people curb food waste because they only buy what they need for their pre-decided meals. I’m sure it goes either way. We don’t meal plan either and just use what will spoil first. We also tend to buy the same produce, so we know how much is too much.

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      • I thought I was the odd one not meal planning as I find it does not help reduce food waste for me. My meals are based around what meat or fish I pull from the freezer, what fresh produce I have in the fridge (using the older stuff first) and what store cupboard staples I have to hand …and I adapt recipes if I have things missing or add extras that need eating up. And many a meal is based around left overs as my portion control isn’t great but by ability to make another meal from leftovers is pretty good!!

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  3. Great post. I definitely struggle with food waste more than anything. I can stay away from every kind of store, but I still have to buy food and I usually get more than I have time to manage. Thanks for these great tips!

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    • Thanks for commenting. We don’t waste a lot – sometimes I will forget about the last leaf of kale in the back, but we try really hard. I have also simplified all my other purchase habits except food. I will spend the money on local and organic meats, etc, but typically that can all be frozen until we plan to use it. Right now our fridge is being a jerk and this morning I found all my milk products spoiled 😦 😦

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  4. Great post! Here are my 70+ tips for avoiding food waste.

    I’m glad you are talking to your students about not wasting food. I’m very pleased that my 3-year-old is attending a childcare center that emphasizes green practices wherever they can. Recently, an email from the school said, “If your child is going on the field trip, please pack a disposable lunch,” and we thought maybe we just missed hearing about the field trip, so we packed her lunch in reused sandwich bags in a reused paper bag just in case she could go. It turned out that only the older class was going. When I came to pick up my daughter, I found in her cubby the empty sandwich bags carefully folded into the paper bag so that we could use them again!! That only took a moment’s thoughtfulness from the teacher, and I appreciate it so much. My older child went to a different preschool where I felt like they were almost trying to maximize waste!

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  5. Wow, that infographic is sad. I knew food waste is so bad, but those statistics are hard to swallow. We grow some of our own food, but not nearly enough to live off of. We waste far more than I’d like, but thankfully we compost it so the nutrients aren’t wasted. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday blog hop.

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  6. Food waste drives me absolutely demented especially when there is so much poverty and starvation in the world. It is so easy to stop yet people are either too lazy or have lost the knowledge of how to do it. We seriously need to get the population back in touch with food and get food waste stopped. It is something I blog about quite often but I think it needs some Government led initiatives to really be effective. #WasteLessWednesday

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