Food Waste, Insecurity, and the Role of Organizations

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

April 28th is ‘Stop Food Waste Day’. This day aims to educate people on the issues in the global food system, start discussions on solutions, and empower them to take action.

In Canada, approximately 58% of all food produced is lost and wasted. This amounts to 11.2 million tonnes of edible food per year! On top of social and economic implications, this poses a huge environmental problem. Food, regardless of whether it’s plant or animal products, takes a lot of energy and water to grow as well as packaging and transportation. When food goes to landfills and rots, it produces methane, which is a really potent greenhouse gas.

As the world’s population grows, we’ve heard lots of concerns about how to feed everyone on the planet. But the problem isn’t just about scarcity, it’s also about distribution. While there is a lot of food wasted worldwide, there are also billions of people who are food insecure. In Canada alone, there are over 5 million people who are facing this issue.

Of course, most of us know that it is important to reduce personal food waste, by storing food properly, using leftovers, and not buying too much in the first place, among other things. While all of that is extremely important, there is also a lot of food waste produced on the commercial side as well.

Businesses contribute a lot to food waste and oftentimes as consumers, we don’t see it! Restaurants and other foodservice businesses may over-prepare food and waste the food that is not bought or consumed. In addition, large portion sizes at restaurants also lead to food waste when restaurant-goers are unable to finish their meal. On top of that, restaurants often have strict food safety protocols that can add to unnecessary food waste. Grocery stores deal with a similar issue, often having strict quality standards for produce and needing to throw away spoiled foods.

Photo by Cassidy Mills on Unsplash

What Are Some Ways That Businesses Can Reduce Food Waste?

According to HBR, there are many ways that businesses can reduce food waste. The first is to upgrade inventory systems to efficiently track the supply of food. The second is to work directly with farmers and share their forecast demand data to help farmers with their production plans. Next, businesses can eliminate policies around rejecting produce with cosmetic imperfections or throwing out food past its ‘best before’ date. Lastly, they can empower consumers to take action in their own homes to reduce food waste.

Nowadays, more and more people are becoming educated on food waste and distribution issues. This is great because this puts pressure on businesses to reduce their food waste in Canada. Additionally, it has led to the formation of various organizations that address these issues. Here are three organization models that reduce food waste. Keep in mind that there are so many different models out there, and not one is better than the rest. What’s important is the collaboration of these organizations in developing effective and sustainable solutions!

1. Rescue and Redistribution Model

This first model directly addresses both food waste and food insecurity. You can imagine how this works! Organizations like Second Harvest rescue food surplus that businesses can’t use and redistribute it to organizations that feed local communities. This can include imperfect produce from grocery stores or excess ingredients from manufacturers. Second Harvest specifically receives donations from Sobeys, Costco, Air Canada, Starbucks, and even IKEA. They’ve successfully redistributed 41 million pounds of food to over 900 communities within Canada, including Northern and Indigenous communities!

2. Imperfect Grocery Delivery Business Model

We’ve all heard of grocery delivery services, but did you know there are businesses that only deliver “imperfect” groceries? These businesses are growing in the US, but are only now recently coming to Canada. Many businesses offer imperfect grocery subscription boxes that get delivered to your home. Similar to the first model, they recover foods from grocery stores and suppliers. This reduces food waste on a commercial level and may save you some money on your groceries!

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Unsplash

3. Food Bank Model

An organization model that we’re all familiar with is food banks! Not only do they provide free food to combat food insecurity, but they also play a role in reducing food waste. Although not all the food that they receive is “rescued”, the people who donate non-perishable food tend to do so from their own pantries, choosing the items that they can’t or won’t use. Instead of throwing it away, they can donate it to food banks. Some food banks even accept food for a certain period after its best before date. Many communities have food banks or food support programs. As UWaterloo students, we all have access to WUSA Food Support Service, which provides food from community donations to any student who needs it.

On a final note, there exists a social stigma around eating imperfect food or needing to access food support. This stigma puts up a large barrier to fighting food waste and distribution issues. Thus, in order to reduce food waste and end food insecurity, we need to all work together to dismantle this stigma.

We hope you’ve learned something from this blog and, if possible, support these organizations on and after Stop Food Waste Day!

References

Deer, R. (2021). Understanding the food waste problem & how your business can help. Retrieved from Roadrunner website: https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/understanding-the-food-waste-problem-and-how-you-can-help

Fight climate change by preventing food waste. (n.d.) Retrieved from World Wildlife Fund website: https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/fight-climate-change-by-preventing-food-waste#:~:text=But%20wasted%20food%20isn't,more%20potent%20than%20carbon%20dioxide.

FoodFund. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foodfund.ca/

Food waste in the home. (n.d.). Retrieved from Love Food Hate Waste Canada website: https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/

Kor, Y. Y., Prabhu, J., & Esposito, M. (2017). How large food retailers can help solve the food waste crisis. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review website: https://hbr.org/2017/12/how-large-food-retailers-can-help-solve-the-food-waste-crisis

Reducing food loss and waste. (n.d.) Retrieved from The Global FoodBanking Network website: https://www.foodbanking.org/what-we-do/reducing-food-loss-and-waste/#:~:text=By%20prioritizing%20food%20redistribution%20in,reduce%20food%20losses%20by%202030

Second harvest. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.secondharvest.ca/

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A student-run club that operates a small-scale composting service, while also promoting sustainability through proper waste management and Zero Waste lifestyle.

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UW Campus Compost

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A student-run club that operates a small-scale composting service, while also promoting sustainability through proper waste management and Zero Waste lifestyle.

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