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Influencing Change – Taking action to reduce food waste

September 8, 2020

Author: Candace Aqui, MPH, RD, Program and Policy Consultant at Nutrition Connections

In this 4-part blog series, Nutrition Connections is featuring important and timely research findings from the Guelph Family Health Study (GFHS), a long-term study following families over many years to learn new ways to help parents of young children set healthy routines for eating, activity, sleep and screen time at home.  The series will feature research in the areas of the impact of COVID-19 on families, food waste, stress and body fat, stress and screen time.

Did you know? According to the National Zero Waste Council, more than 1/3 of food produced and distributed in Canada is never eaten.1 For many reasons, our food is ending up in landfills. Food loss and waste refers to edible and inedible food that is lost in the stages between production and distribution (food loss), as well as the food lost at the point of retail or consumer use (food waste).1

Food waste has received much attention in the news and other media, and it is especially top of mind because of the disruptions to our food system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. You may have heard about the destruction of crops and the dumping of fluid milk due to reduced demand resulting from the closure of schools and restaurants and labour shortages stemming from closed border crossings.

In addition to food loss, household food waste is also a major concern. A recent survey by Dalhousie University suggests that household food waste may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic estimates of the average food waste from Canadian households per year range from 140 kg per household2 to 85 kg per person.3 While this would include inedible food and unavoidable food waste, interestingly, the foods most wasted are the ones we not eating enough of. Vegetables and fruit, which are highly nutritious, are the most wasted foods.2,4,5 The impact of food waste is broader than the just impact it has on our diets. Wasted food also wastes money, water, calories and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Many organizations are working diligently on legislation, policy and educational tools to address this issue. As a centre for nutrition knowledge and collaboration, Nutrition Connections is proud to be doing our part by partnering with the GFHS and the Guelph Food Waste Research Project at the University of Guelph to showcase the results of their food waste research. By translating the research into easy to use, educational resources, our goal is to raise awareness about the impact of food waste on human health and the health of the environment.

As families are preparing for back-to-school, they may also be thinking about how to prevent their children’s lunches and snacks from coming back home, not only to reduce food waste, but to ensure children have the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

These resources are geared towards caregivers of young children (e.g. parents, early childhood educators and teachers), and provide practical tips so that we can all work together to reduce food waste.

Share with your friends, family members, and co-workers and don’t forget to tell us what you think by completing the popup survey on your screen.

For great recipe ideas and helpful tips for reducing food waste, check out the Rock What You’ve Got – Recipes for Preventing Food Waste Cookbook created by the GFHS and George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio with support from The Helderleigh Foundation, and the National Zero Waste Council.

References:

1. National Zero Waste Council (2018). A Food Loss and Waste Strategy for Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.nzwc.ca/focus/food/national-food-waste-strategy/Documents/NZWC-FoodLossWasteStrategy.pdf

2.Love Food Hate Waste Canada. (2019). About Household Food Waste in Canada. Retrieved from: https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/

3.Commission for Environmental Cooperation. (2017). Characterization and Management of Organic Waste in North America: Foundational Report.  Retrieved from: http://www3.cec.org/islandora/en/item/11771-characterization-and-management-organic-waste-in-north-americafoundational-en.pdf  

4.von Massow M, Parizeau K, Gallant M, Wickson M, Haines J, Ma DWL, Wallace A, Carroll N and Duncan AM (2019) Valuing the Multiple Impacts of Household Food Waste. Front. Nutr. 6:143. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00143

5. Carroll N, Wallace A, Jewell K, Darlington G, Ma DWL, Duncan AM. Duncan, Parizeau K, von Massow M, Haines J. Association between diet quality and food waste in Canadian families: a cross-sectional study. Nutrition Journal, 2020,19(1), 1-8.