Justin Kulik with Central Okanagan Board of Education trustee Julia Fraser. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Kelowna teenager advocates to stop food waste

Online petition started by Justin Kulik influencing national food policy debate

A Kelowna high school student has shown how much one person can make a difference in our country.

Justin Kulik, an Okanagan-Mission Secondary student, launched an online petition earlier this year to eliminate food waste at the grocery store retail level that has so far attracted 186,000 signatures.

Based on the volume of that response, Kulik was given the opportunity to present his petition to the Prime Minister’s Office health advisor, federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay and other MPs on World Food Day, Oct. 16.

Those talks continue as Kulik continues to be in contact with MacAulay’s ministry about developing an enforceable policy similar to what France has done.

RELATED: Kelowna teen to speak with agriculture minister

Kulik’s efforts were also cited by a Quebec MP during Question Period, calling for a national food policy to be adopted by the federal government.

Speaking to the Central Okanagan Board of Education at Wednesday’s meeting, Kulik explained how he was influenced by a similar petition initiated in France in 2015 which convinced the French government to pass a law forbidding supermarkets from wasting and deliberately destroying food that was still edible, instead requiring all unsold food products be donated to charity such as food banks..

Further investigating the issue, Kulik learned that $31 billion in food is wasted every year. He decided to launch a petition similar to what was done in France, focusing his efforts on the 10 per cent of that food waste blamed on food disposed of by grocery stores.

“I wanted to tackle that aspect because this food is not being disposed of do to being mouldy, it is more about no longer being desirable to sell. The produce may have a bruise on it, a box or can a dent in it, cosmetic things which don’t affect the quality of the food but rather affect the ability to sell it,” Kulik told the trustees.

RELATED: Time to rethink food waste before it’s too late

His petition drew attention to that food waste, while citing how near one million Canadians rely on food banks each month and about four million Canadians are considered food insecure, of which 1.5 million are children.

Kulik said his goal was to achieve 100,000 signatures on his petition, but it reached 186,000.

After meeting with some high profile political MPs and bureaucrats, Kulik said he now has a definite interest in pursuing federal politics at some point in his future.

Asked what his plans are when he graduates next spring, Kulik told the school board: “My plan is to find the university that will give me the most money and pursue my bachelor of political science degree and followup with my masters.”

Trustee Julia Fraser said Kulik is “a remarkable young man” who has shown what a difference on individual can make.

“I believe you have a knack at this sort of thing and I can see a future for you in politics,” she said.

RELATED: New campaign aims to tide food waste at home

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan School District superintendent/CEO, applauded Kulik’s motivation to pursue his passion, and how he has helped influence government to work on developing an enforceable food policy.

“Part of the school district’s goal is for our students to demonstrate the attributes of a learner. Two of attributes were shown here in solving an issue around food security and collaborating with others by getting (politicians) to speak across the aisle to work together in a joint effort to bring about change that is going to affect four million people. That is incredible,” Kaardal told Kulik.

“I commend you and we are just thrilled how you are part of our school system and hope we had something to do with the work you are doing, and if you need any further help just let us know.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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