About $27 billion worth of food is trashed annually in Canada. In the same amount of time, more than 800,000 Canadians rely on food banks for their next meal.
The two numbers just don’t add up, says Tammara Soma, one of the organizers behind a symposium on food waste scheduled for Monday night at the University of Toronto’s New College.
“Something is missing in that equation,” said Soma. “This will hopefully spark a conversation that can lead to fixing (Canada’s) food systems and connecting all the dots.”
Soma, a doctoral candidate in planning at the university, says Canada is far behind Europe and the United States when it comes to managing food waste. The European Commission designated 2014 the “Year against food waste” and set a reduction goal of 50 per cent over the next decade.
Fifty per cent of food waste in Canada is happening at the household level, said Soma, with Canadian households spending $1,500 annually on wasted food, about a bag of groceries a week. As a result, many landfill sites are nearing capacity.
“I think the biggest problem is that we’re all extremely busy and we feel we only have that one window to stock up on groceries.”
We asked Soma to offer five tips to cut down on food waste at home:
Make the freezer your friend: If you’ve cooked too much, or have leftovers, put it in the freezer immediately to keep the food from going bad. Plan to go back to those meals at a later date.
Watch your portions: Often, Soma said, people will have extra food they don’t eat because their portion sizes are too big. Calculate your portions first to make sure you’re not overindulging. With children — Soma has three — give them a small portion first, then let them decide if they’d like more.
Plan your menu in advance: “We often choose food from the back of the shelves at the grocery store to get the freshest product. When you get home, you have to reverse that; put all the old food at the front first to make sure it gets eaten first,” Soma said. Try to factor in when you’re going out to eat so you don’t overbuy. For help planning meals, Soma suggests Love Food, Hate Waste, a British website and app.
Experiment: Those very ripe bananas in your fruit bowl? Use them in a smoothie, or put them in the freezer and bake with them later, Soma said.
Ignore the aesthetics: People are not the only ones held to a standard of beauty; so is food. Consider the “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign launched by French supermarket chain Intermarché earlier this year to promote “ugly” produce. Don’t scoff at an apple just because it has a couple bruises, and don’t buy the biggest red pepper just because it looks nicer than a smaller one more proportionate to your serving size.