Food Waste

Good news! You’re a big part of the problem.

Roughly one third of the food produced for global human consumption is wasted every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That translates into approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, costing US$ 680 billion in losses. The numbers are overwhelming.

Canadians are among the world’s worst food waste culprits, according to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (COE). In Canada, 396 kilograms of food goes to waste per person annually (771 pounds). The U.S. weighs in at 415 kilograms, while Mexico does much better at 249 kilograms.

The good news is that you are a big part of the problem.

Food waste occurs at every level of the food supply chain (the path that food takes from the farmer’s field to your dinner plate). Given our complex global food system, it’s easy to suppose that the bulk of food waste happens in transit, during processing, or even at the grocery store.

But it turns out that a whopping 47 percent of food waste happens after you pop those grocery bags in the trunk. The average Canadian consumer throws out 170 kilograms of food every year, over 60 percent of which could have been eaten. 

It doesn’t sound like good news, but it is. Consumer food waste is an environmental issue that individuals can actually do something about. 

All hands on deck
Last summer, two major grocery retailers joined local and provincial governments across Canada to launch the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign (lovefoodhatewaste.ca). The campaign aims to change Canadian habits around wasting food. 

The “Love Food Hate Waste” website offers advice that was common sense a couple of generations ago, like turning overcooked veggies into a soup. Other recommendations answer distinctly modern conundrums, like the true meaning of “best before” dates. 

Food waste has been in the public eye for several years. Initiatives all along the Canadian food supply chain have been set in place to reduce waste. Farmers and producer organizations regularly divert excess or unsold products to food banks. Processing companies retrofit their facilities to reduce food waste. Grocery retailers now sell produce that failed to meet cosmetic standards but are otherwise perfectly edible, such as Loblaw’s “Naturally Imperfect” brand. 

Food waste is an all-hands-on-deck issue. All along the value chain, companies, not-for-profits and individuals are seeking methods of reducing food waste and thereby improving sustainability. Individual action, like that encouraged through the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign, will catalyze our shared success.

During the Thanksgiving season, people all over the world take time to focus on gratitude. As Christians, we recognize that the careful stewardship of resources is an important part of expressing our thanks for God’s providence.

The Canadian campaign is modelled after the United Kingdom campaign of the same name. In its first five years, consumer food waste in the UK declined by 21 percent (saving an impressive 13 billion euros worth of groceries).

Let’s hope for the same success here in Canada. Does anyone have a good recipe for wilted spinach? 


  • Marie Versteeg

    Marie is a freelance writer with a background working in agriculture and education.

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