At Food for Life, we’re passionate about reducing food waste to help both people and the planet. Another one of our goals is to educate people about the role they play in eliminating food waste! Through simple solutions, we can all make a difference.
According to the National Zero Waste Council’s research on household food waste, almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food is wasted in Canada each year. You don’t need us to tell you that that’s a staggering number!
Wasted food costs Canadians around $17 billion annually. It’s also a leading generator of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that negatively impacts climate change. It’s also food that otherwise could have helped feed friends and neighbours facing barriers to food security.
What is food waste?
Taking Stock: Reducing Food Loss and Waste in Canada, a 2019 report released by the Waste Reduction and Management Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, defines food waste as:
“Food that is grown or harvested, but never eaten, is considered to be food loss and waste. For example, a piece of fruit that is damaged during transport; food items in grocery stores that spoil before they can be sold; leftovers from a meal prepared at home that are not eaten; or food dishes prepared in a restaurant that are never served and are instead discarded. The term food loss applies from the point of maturity of a crop or harvest up to, but excluding, the retail stage; whereas food waste is applied to the retail and final food preparation and consumption stages.”
Food waste happens at all stages of food production and consumption, from a farmer’s field to our own plates. An estimated 13% of fruits and vegetables grown in Canada go unharvested or are discarded following harvest. Other food is wasted because it is damaged during transportation or storage. According to Taking Stock, there is also “significant” food waste generated at restaurants, hotels, and other institutions, including food prepared but not served, surplus inventory of ingredients, and food lost to inadequate storage.
Food waste in Halton
In 2020, the Halton Environmental Network partnered with Value Chain Management International, a global food consultancy group and leader in identifying and analyzing food loss and waste, to release a cutting edge study called Make Every Bite Count: Study to Estimate the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint of Household Food Waste in Oakville.
The study found that among the households surveyed, fruits and vegetables, grains, rice and bread, and meat and poultry were the most common forms of avoidable food waste. Among the reasons food was wasted was purchasing in excess of needs, suboptimal storage of food, preparing foods that are not consumed, and disposing of food that has reached its best before date.
How to reduce food waste
We know this all sounds ominous, but there’s a lot of good news, too. Food waste is avoidable, and there are many ways we can all do our part to reduce it. In fact, the government and organizations are also already doing their part to fix the problem.
In 2015, Canada committed to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. It sets a target to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses” by 2030.
At Food for Life, we’ve set an ambitious goal of diverting all surplus food from landfills. You can learn more about our sustainability progress and goals here.
There’s so much you can do, too, through simple, innovative solutions at home and in your backyard. For example:
One of the best ways to reduce food waste at home is to plan ahead. This means writing a grocery list and sticking to it! It’s easy to be enticed by a good deal — but it’s not a good deal if your food ends up in the trash.
Many grocery stores and farmer’s markets also sell discounted food that might be close to its expiry date or have imperfections like bruises. Give this food a good home before it heads to a landfill.
Buying only what you need not only helps reduce food waste, but it will also save your household money. Before you go grocery shopping, write a meal plan in order to know exactly what ingredients you need.
Store Foods Properly
Knowing how to store produce, meat, and other perishable foods is key to making it last longer. There are many storage tips that will help prolong the life of your food. Here are some tips from the David Suzuki Foundation.
Stepping outside of your cooking comfort zone is a great way to reduce food waste. For example, instead of throwing out wilting vegetables, make soup or a vegetable stalk. If your garden is yielding too many vegetables, consider pickling some to enjoy later. Did you know you can grate broccoli and cauliflower stems to make coleslaw? Stale bread can be used to make croutons or bread crumbs to be used in other recipes.
The possibilities are endless!
Feed Your Garden
Food scraps can supply critical nutrients to your garden. For example, did you know that eggshells are excellent fertilizer, adding calcium to your soil. Coffee grounds can help repel pests, including slugs, cats and squirrels. Banana peels also add nutrients to the soil as they decay.
You can also make your own compost using fruit and vegetable scraps and trimmings, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters. Here are some tips from the Compost Council of Canada to get your started!