Canada as a Food Waste Monster

by Alyssa on November 19, 2015 - 9:54pm

 The article by Pete Evans summarizes the findings from the 2014 report created by Value Chain Management International. The report found that over $31 billion dollars worth of food is wasted every year in Canada. However, this does not account for food waste generated in federal institutions including prisons, hospitals and schools. Nor does it account for  other inputs, such as water, land or labour used in the food’s production. As such, the monetary value of food waste is much higher. Since 2010 the amount of food wasted in Canada has increased by 15%, with the largest increase in processing. The authors go on to breakdown food waste per sector, with 10% of food wasted on farms,, 20% is wasted during manufacturing and processing and 10% is wasted by retailers. A further 9% is wasted in restaurants and hotels, but the largest contributor is individuals, producing 47% of Canadian food waste. The remaining amount (approximately 4%) comes from food terminals and transport. The food waste has a negative economic impact on businesses and on individuals, as the price of food is raised about 10%  to accommodate for the ‘avoidable’ food waste. The authors fail to elaborate on the reasoning behind this food waste, other than a lack of effort or care. Additionally no solutions are proposed.



I found this article very interesting as the issue of food waste pertains to everyone, even though most people do not think about it. Food waste is not sexy or appealing to talk about, and as such it rarely receives attention from the media.  But the staggering quantity of food Canadians waste every year is astounding.



By wasting so much edible food, we are requiring more land and resources to be put into agricultural production than is needed. In turn resources, particularly soil quality and water are put under stress. This is highlighted in the Canadian prairies, where the southern communities have medium to high water stress, with certain areas having already used over 40% of their available water. Additionally the industrialization of the food industry has led to monocultures, resulting in increased soil degradation and decreased biodiversity..But food waste is not limited to vegetables and fruits, as large amount of meat, dairy and seafood are also wasted. This is ridiculous and astounding as fish stocks are being depleted worldwide and millions of people live in hunger.



The cost of food waste further impacts farmers’ revenues and profitability. No matter how much of their crops that they sell, farmers must pay for all of the crops or livestock they produce. Thus they are more susceptible to the profits lost in food waste, such as when crops are turned away by grocery stores for not fitting the strict aesthetic standards, which can limit the size, shape and color of vegetables and fruits. .



Combatting food waste involves the participation of multiple actors. States need to step up to address this problem by increasing education and imposing regulatory instruments. The later of these will quickly and drastically decrease the amount of food wasted in transport, processing and manufacturing. Once new legislation is imposed, corporations will react swiftly to develop solutions to food waste. Additionally companies gain  good publicity and media for tackling this issue. Third party actors can aid in this regard, by redistributing unwanted or soon to expire food to food banks or soup kitchens. .



However, a nation wide education campaign is needed to target the largest sector of food waste, which is created by consumers. Individuals generate 47% of food waste, which highlights the impact our daily actions have. By making simple changes in habits, such as properly planning meals and grocery shopping, Canadians can drastically reduce food waste. Additionally consumers have the ability to target corporations and the government to lobby them to address this issue and create change.   

 
 
Article Source: 
Evans, Pete. "Food Waste Costs Canada $31B a Year, Report Says." CBC News. N.p., 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. < http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/food-waste-costs-canada-31b-a-year-repor... >

Comments

This topic is so important to address! I know I am no model for food waste, as I often will throw out any leftovers from my fridge if it has been sitting there for more than a few days to avoid the threat of food poisoning. However, my nana would lose her head if anything from one of her meals was wasted. I believe there is a disconnect between people as consumers and the knowledge of where the food actually comes from. Also, as a first world country that produces a majority of the worlds food, Canadians often take the surplus at grocery stores for granted. Though many believe the price of food currently is already too high, food is clearly not expensive enough for people to be valuing it and consuming all of it. There are some people who already struggle to put food on the table for their families, so a solution of raising the price of food would be hard to establish, but I think your idea of implementing a food waste tax on agriculture and industry is a great idea. There already are countries, such as France, that include the “ugly” fruit and vegetables from farms to be sold at grocery stores, which would help both the farmers and the stores from throwing away perfectly edible food. Since GMO’s have entered the industry, people have an unrealistic expectation on what their food should look like. Changing an entire generation’s perspective on what food should look like is a difficult task, even with education. It may sound pessimistic, but I believe Canada will continue to waste food until there is a food shortage, or until the price of food is too high to feasibly waste it. Similar to how Canadians take fresh water for granted, the food waste will continue, at least within this generation, until households tell their children that wasting anything is not an option.

Hi Alyssa,
I was really interested by your article because I realize how much waste I create and how I should make a greater effort in reducing it. I agree with you that education is one of the key solutions to reduce food waste. I was shocked by the percentage of food waste you presented. A minimum effort from the consumers could make such a difference! I think that education could teach consumers how to plan their menu and buy only what they need as you mentioned, but it could also teach them that an ugly fruit does not necessarily means it is bad. I was glad to see that some grocery stores in Canada such as Loblaw’s followed the movement that started in France, namely, “les fruits et légumes moches” (Fortin-Gauthier, 2015, para 8). The bad looking fruits and vegetables are sold 30% less than the good looking ones (Fortin-Gauthier, 2015, para 5). It represents a good way of not wasting food that once peeled and cut is exactly the same as any good looking food. It also allows the farmers to sail most of their crops instead of wasting part of it, which is more profitable. There is surely hope that sensitization will make its way through the consumers’ mind and that food wastes be reduced thanks to education.

Fortin-Gauthier, E. (May 29, 2015). Fruits et légumes moches font leur arrivée dans les supermarchés. La Presse. Retrieved from http://www.lapresse.ca/le-soleil/affaires/agro-alimentaire/201503/13/01-...

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