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.