France recently took a firm stand against food waste in the country. French supermarkets will now be banned from throwing away unsold food items. Instead, they will be required to donate these unsold items to charities or for animal feed. This law came as a result of France’s ongoing battle against wasted food, a battle that is not unique to France. Consulting firm Value Chain Management International published a report in 2014 called “The cut waste, grow profit draft report,” suggesting the estimated value of annual food waste in Canada adds up to $31 billion.
According to the report, the annual Canadian food waste is higher than the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the 29 poorest countries. The $31 billion also equates to two per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2013; and it’s more than Canadians spent on food purchased from restaurants in 2011. Furthermore, the report suggests the true value of food waste in Canada could be much higher. Due to the fact that there is no reliable data on food waste in institutions such as hospitals, prisons and schools, these institutions were omitted from the report’s calculations. Additionally, if the cumulative cost of associated wastes such as energy, water, land labour, capital investment and infrastructure were considered, the overall cost of annual food waste in Canada would exceed $100 billion.
Burns Lake has taken positive steps to reduce food waste in the area. The food share program, led by Literacy Outreach coordinator Jennifer Petersen, kicked off just over a year ago.
The way the program works is that a different volunteer organization goes to Overwaitea Foods in Burns Lake every day, picks up donated food items and then distributes them to people in need. Overwaitea donates food items that are near their expiration date, or that don’t look good enough to sell in the store. Petersen explained that before the food share program was operating, Overwaitea would simply throw these food items out.
Since the start of the food share program in Burns Lake, over 16,500 pounds of food have been donated to people in need, including people living in the Southside and Granisle.
Many companies do not address the issue of food waste because they do not think it’s worth their time. The truth is that food waste causes immense financial costs for businesses. Addressing food waste is a great opportunity for companies to be more profitable while being environmentally and socially responsible.
Some companies also fear being held liable if someone becomes sick as a result of a donation. Luckily in Canada there are laws in place to prevent companies from being held responsible in these situations. Bill 10 of the food donor encouragement act relieves people and organizations that donate food or distribute donated food from being held liable for damages in the event of injury or death caused by consumption.
Wasting food is not simply considered socially and environmentally irresponsible; it also increases the cost of food by 10 per cent or more, according to the cut waste, grow profit draft report. Although companies have their share of responsibility when it comes to wasting food, consumers are responsible for 47 per cent of all wasted food in Canada.
We all have bad habits in the kitchen, whether it’s buying more than we need or forgetting to eat stored leftovers. But by taking a few simple steps in the kitchen, we can avoid a great amount of waste (and save some money). These steps include serving small amounts of food; when cooking, use every piece of whatever food you’re cooking with; remember to take home leftovers (and actually eat them); practice “first in, first out,” – when unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge and put new products in the back. And most importantly, shop smart and buy exactly what you need.