by Zoe Matties – Manitoba Program Manager

Fall is one of my favourite times of the year. The leaves are changing colours and the cooler weather makes for cozy evenings in wool sweaters with cups of tea. Fall also means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Every year I look forward to the time spent time around the dinner table eating good food with family and friends. After Thanksgiving, however, there will inevitably be enormous amounts of leftovers. While I think fondly about leftover turkey sandwiches and big pots of soup broth, the average Canadian ends up throwing much of that food in the garbage.

Did you know that of all the food produced in Canada, 58 percent is lost and wasted? This food loss and waste occurs across all parts of the food system: from farms, factories and fridges. While some of this food waste is unavoidable (think banana peels and peach pits), much of it could be prevented. This waste ends up costing us over 49 billion dollars a year!

It ends up hurting the planet quite a bit too. Food that ends up in the landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization food waste contributes eight percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter! Project Drawdown ranks reducing food waste as one of their top solutions to climate change. And it is a solution that is very achievable!

Here are 5 practices that can help us remember the value of our food, and help us emulate Jesus when he said, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted” (John 6:13).

  1. Only buy what you need:

    Household food waste often occurs because we buy too much food, and we don’t use what we have in our fridges and freezers already. Some of the most effective ways of reducing wasted food at the household level are meal planning and making grocery lists. Check out this helpful how to guide and these helpful tips for getting into meal planning.

  2. Save and eat leftovers:

    Don’t just let those leftovers rot in a container in the back of your fridge. Leftovers make excellent – and cheap! – lunch options, or they can save you the work of making a new meal later in the week. Storing leftovers in clear containers can help you see what’s in your fridge so you can be sure to eat it.

  3. Treat best-before dates as guidelines:

    A lot of food is tossed because it has reached a best before date. You may have heard the phrase: “it’s a best before date, not a bad after date!” This is true! Best before dates have more to do with freshness, texture and quality, than safety. You can check out Eat By Date or Love Food Hate Waste for helpful storage and consumption information.

  1. Use technology:

    New technologies, like apps, can help us reduce our food waste. Two such apps are Flashfood and Olio. Flashfood connects you to grocery stores selling food about to reach its best before date at highly discounted prices. Olio connects you to neighbours and local businesses that want to share excess food.

  2. Compost:

    Many cities have municipal compost programs that can handle all kinds of food waste from veggies to meat and bones. Making use of these programs is a simple way to ensure food waste doesn’t end up in the landfill. In places that don’t have municipal compost systems, it’s fairly easy to set up a home composting system in your back yard. You can also make use of local social enterprises such as Compost Winnipeg that will come pick up your compost.

P.S. Waste Reduction Week in Canada is Oct 21-27! How you will be taking action to reduce the waste that you produce?

Read more about Food Waste in Canada here