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Confessions of a former food waster

Throwing away food. We’ve all done it or, I know at least I have. In the past, I’ve thrown away food because it was a day or two past its best before date or because it was starting to wilt. Little did I know that much of that waste I was throwing in the compost was avoidable and contributing to increasing emissions.

Each year 2.2 million tonnes of edible food is wasted in Canada, which is the equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road.[1] And according to a recent study on food waste in Canada, we waste more food than we consume. Those staggering stats don’t even account for the wasted resources and emissions it took to grow and transport that food to your fridge in the first place.

Ok, but what about composting? That’s gotta help, right? The answer is, kind of. Composting is a great way to deal with food waste since it can create nutritious soil to grow more food. BUT (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), as food is decomposing in a compost or landfill it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Another bad habit that I noticed a while ago (I’m giving away all my dirty secrets here!) was picking out produce. I would sort through the veggies or fruit in the produce section for the best-looking ones. It’s like my brain told me the carrot with a big bulge or the apple with blemished skin wouldn’t taste as good or be as nutritious. As a result of this common way of bogus thinking, grocers throw away imperfect produce because they know it won’t sell. From our households to our grocers, there is so much waste going on.

Credit: Agriculture in the Classroom Canada

So, how do we begin to fix this problem? Here in Victoria, a lot of great and meaningful work is being done to combat food waste. Places like the Mustard Seed and St. Vincent de Paul are working with grocers to use imperfect-looking food to fill the bellies of thousands of Victorians in need. Through their Food Recovery Program, the Mustard Seed Street Church works with redistributes 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of rescued food each day to 46 community groups, schools, non-profits and Indigenous communities. St. Vincent de Paul’s Emergency Food Program takes the food waste from four Fairway Markets to provide food to help over 1800 individuals each month living in poverty in the greater Victoria area. They are also building community garden programs and teaching preserving and healthy cooking workshops to help people living in poverty get more from their food dollars.

Here at the Food Eco District (FED), we hosted our annual Harvest Garden Fiesta in September to celebrate food and food sustainability by

The FED Harvest Fiesta Taco Competition

raising awareness about the impacts of food waste on Vancouver Island. To do that, we had a taco cook-off between local chefs who’ve used produce from local farms and grocers deemed too conventionally “ugly” to sell. Each chef made two taco dishes – 1 meat and 1 vegetarian and came up with some amazing creations that were all SO good! All the produce in the tacos and the margarita was from food that would have otherwise gone to waste!

At home, we should start looking at things differently. Throw some aging veggies in an omelette or throw all of your veggie scraps into some hot water and make a delicious broth. For amazing tips on how to meal plan and to get the most out of your food, check out Love Food Hate Waste Canada. For delicious and soul warming recipes, check out my own personal hero, the Zero Waste Chef. She never lets a thing go to waste and teaches me something new every time I visit her blog.

For more education and fun on food waste awareness, join us for the film screening of Wasted: The Story of Food Waste, at the Victoria Events Centre from 6:00pm-9:00pm on November 13th. We will also be raffling off several food waste prevention starter kits so come on down and learn with us!

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