Food waste is a major issue in Canada and a problem that I’ve spent much time researching solutions for. What I’ve discovered is that this waste is often avoidable and it occurs on a few different levels, both individual and corporate. Individuals and families throw out large amounts of food and the rules around the appearance of food also plays a large role in businesses food waste. In both cases, current practices lead to extensive (and avoidable) food waste.
The Realities of Food Waste in Canada
According to the Government of Canada website, “An estimated 13% of fruits and vegetables grown in Canada go unharvested or are discarded following harvest.” This is due to several different factors. Standards regarding the appearance of produce play a role. So does seasonal change when it comes to supply and demand. Not having enough workers to harvest and handle produce is a factor. So is a lack of storage. Issues with handling and transportation and overproduction also play a part. There is also a big difference between the cost of harvesting and handling produce compared to how much companies can sell it for.
Second City in Toronto released a report in early 2019 which states that food waste in Canada is as high as 58%, or 35.5 million tonnes. The report argues that at least a third of this waste could be avoided.
Thankfully, here in Halifax, there are a number of ways folks are working to solve this problem. Here are four of my personal favourites:
1. Urban Farm Produce Bundles
Square Roots provides a bundle service in which they purchase produce in bulk from local farms. They then sort the produce into 10 lb bundles. These bundles are then distributed to a variety of different locations across the province. Square Roots prices their bundles in two different ways. They charge $10 per bundle, for those who can afford it and $5 a bundle for those who cannot. There is another option to pay $60 for 3 months worth of bundles for yourself and a family in need. The organization shares bundle pick-up times and produce lists via Facebook the third week of each month.
Square Roots also offers a token program. Tokens can be purchased and given to individuals in need. These individuals can then take the tokens to restaurants that participate in the program. It’s a wonderful initiative that helps provide community support and cut down on food waste.
2. Farmer’s Market Surplus Boxes
Abundant Acres Farm, located in Centre Burlington, NS also offers a Surplus Box on Sundays during their market season. The bundle contains produce leftovers after their market day on Saturday. These produce bundles are available for home delivery. They cost $30 for $35-40 worth of Organic Produce. The surplus boxes are available from the spring until the fall. Abundant Acres also offers a Community Supported Agriculture program. CSA pick up in Halifax is at The Warehouse Market at 2867 Isleville St in the North End.
3. Produce Subscriptions Services
Community Supported Agriculture, otherwise known as CSA’s are a subscription-based system. Farmers provide boxes of small or large shares of produce to subscribers each week. They often run from the Spring through to the Fall. There are several farms in the province that run year-round programs. The boxes contain a variety of locally grown and seasonal produce each week. Subscribers pay for shares in advance, which helps support farmers with the cost of growing their crops. We have found that CSA bundles help us try new vegetables that we wouldn’t have cooked with otherwise.
Taproot Farms retails at the Halifax Seaport Market, Pete’s Fine Foods and other locations around the city and province. They also offer a year-round CSA split into small and large shares. These shares are divided into Summer/Fall and Winter/Spring. Pick-up is available at a variety of different locations across the city and province. Taproots Farms also offers a home delivery option for people within a specific area.
4. Surplus Produce Donations to Food Banks
Found is a non-profit that works to gather, harvest and distribute food that would otherwise go to waste in the province. Found works by gathering produce and then donating it to food banks, restaurants, and wholesalers. They also make the produce into shelf-stable preserves. The profits from selling these preserves go back into supporting the organization. Volunteering and/or cash donations are much appreciated.
Reducing Food Waste is Possible!
When it comes to reducing food waste and supporting the community as a whole, food bundles, surplus vegetable boxes and community-supported agriculture are all wonderful programs. We are lucky to have so much available here in the Halifax Regional Municipality and surrounding areas. Love Food, Hate Waste Canada brought to you by the National Zero Waste Council is also an excellent resource. The site provides a variety of different ways that you as an individual or family can reduce the amount of food waste you produce.
I’d love to hear about your solutions for tacking food waste in your home, community, or business, so please do post in the comments to share your experiences 🙂