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Monday, June 22, 2015

Tackling Food Insecurity By Dealing with Food Waste

A few weeks ago on May 21, a new law was unanimously approved in France prohibiting large supermarkets from throwing out food that was not sold. Instead, supermarkets will be mandated to donate any surplus groceries to charities. Food that is unsafe to eat will be donated to farms for agricultural and livestock purposes. The French politician whose grassroots movement led to this law has plans to globalize this campaign.

The financial costs of food wastage in the world are estimated to be substantial amounting to $1 trillion USD each year. The news about this legislation, as reported by the Guardian and other media recently, highlighted the issue of food waste even as food insecurity worldwide persists. (Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

Credit: Magnolia Lim

Feeding the 5000 Vancouver

Also in May, the Feeding the 5000 event took place in Vancouver, which aimed to feed 5,000 people using food and produce that is nutritious and good quality even though aesthetically imperfect or close to its 'best before' date. The event highlighted the same issue of food waste. 

In Canada, there are on-going discussions about tax incentives and credits for charitable food donations such as proposals by Food Banks Canada and the National Zero Waste Council founded by Metro Vancouver. Another initiative in the private sector is that of the Loblaws grocery chain, offering discounts of as much as 30 percent for misshapen fruits and vegetables under their 'Naturally Imperfect' no-name brand. 

Such measures to tackle food waste ultimately help to improve economic accessibility of food by making good food more readily available at lower prices or through food banks. Accessibility is an important element of food security as discussed in the previous post that is part of this series.

What We Can Do

Individuals and households can do their bit by reducing food waste in personal consumption and by donating excess food that is good to eat. The David Suzuki Foundation provides some further facts and a handy tip sheet.

Support for and participation in recycling programs is another way. In Metro Vancouver, since January 2015, there has been a ban to dispose of organic waste in garbage destined for landfills. Food waste not only squanders valuable resources but also endangers the environment due to the methane that leftover food emits in landfills. 

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