The amount of food waste that Canadians produce is a little difficult to fathom.
Coming from a family of five, our carbon footprint was relatively small when it came to food waste and garbage. We had a composter, which we used for our garden, we ate leftovers, fed bones that we could to the dog, vegetables to the guinea pigs and part of our basement was always filled with recyclables.
Which is why I can’t wrap my head around Canada’s crazy food waste numbers. According to the National Zero Waste Council, more than 60 per cent of food waste thrown away by Canadians could have been eaten and about 2.2 million tones of is discarded each year. That’s pretty significant for a population size of 37 million people.
While I commend the efforts of grocery stores like Save-On-Foods, which has been donating portions of its food waste to non-profits in one form or another for 30 years, and the launch of Love Food Hate Waste, a campaign launched by Walmart and Sobeys, we still have a long way to go.
A few years ago, while working at a student union run coffee shop, the union flat out refused to donate food, stating it could be liable for a lawsuit if someone got sick. So I was forced to dump two large garbage bags full of unopened wraps, cookies and salads straight into the dumpster twice a week. The soup was thrown every day if it wasn’t eaten.
The other excuse I heard was that students would wait for food to be donated instead of purchasing it if we gave it away for free.
Joy Haxton, manager for the food bank, said the people who are using the food bank, aren’t the people who are purchasing food from a grocery store. There’s also a growing number of students who are using the food banks, as one just opened in September at Okanagan College.
It’s tiring to listen to these excuses, especially since the release of a UN report on global warming could mean life or death for people and ecosystems around the world if temperatures raise half a degree.
In Lake Country, the Save-On-Foods is making an effort to donate around 70 to 80 per cent of what would otherwise be dumped to the Lake Country Food Bank.
According to store manager Paul Davidson, about 200 to 300 pounds of produce are being donated to the bank every day.
Justin Kulik, a 17-year-old from Kelowna, presented his food waste petition containing more than 160,000 signatures to the federal minister of agriculture on World Food Day.
He modelled the petition after one in France, which effectively led the country to make it illegal for grocery stores to waste food.
It’s time that others follow suit. More than 160,000 people signed that petition calls for a national law to be put in place.
France can end food waste, it’s time Canada does the same.