COLUMN: To help the hungry, close the food waste gap

Millions of pounds of food are wasted in Canada annually, even though many families struggle with poverty and hunger.

Millions of pounds of food are wasted in Canada each year, even though millions face poverty and hunger.

We can all do our part to help decrease food waste by using leftovers, being more aware of our purchasing habits at the grocery store and donating to food banks.

In the effort to address the issue of food waste, we can also be helped by legislative efforts that introduce public educational and awareness initiatives. The government can also explore a requirement for large grocery stores and supermarkets to donate unexpired and perfectly good food items and produce that has not been sold, to food banks, instead of being disposed.

While some grocery stores already donate, a law could ensure wider adoption of such a practice and decrease waste further.

Other countries have introduced legislation that requires that retailers donate to charities by banning disposal through fines or by creating tax incentives.

Some grocery store chains have also partnered with food banks to ensure that surplus food is donated.

Canada should craft its own laws after further research and consultations. The government should encourage and facilitate best practices for coordination and transportation of donated food items.

According to Food Banks Canada, food banks across the country serve more than 850,000 people per month. At the Surrey Food Bank alone, that number hovers around 15,000.

Legislation would help increase donations to food banks and serve thousands of people in need. To help ensure that no one is forced to sleep hungry, we will need multiple efforts, including positive social and economic changes that address the root causes of poverty. These efforts should include concrete steps, including legislation that prevents food waste and awareness efforts.

Many people facing poverty also do not have access to nutritious food because of the costs of fresh produce and healthy food items.

According to a 2010 report issued by the Value Chain Management Centre and George Morris Centre, billions of dollars of food is wasted in Canada and food waste can also negatively affect the environment.

While it is outside of their legal jurisdiction, municipal food security advisory committees can help push the idea forward by issuing a joint statement in support of such a proposal. This will help create greater support for legislation at the provincial and federal level.

Improvements can and should be made at every step in the food production cycle to decrease food waste. The responsibility falls on all of us, including consumers, because consumers collectively have the highest food waste footprint.

Food waste is a global concern. We can do our part by crafting legislation that works toward a world where no individual has to suffer such pain.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursing a law degree.

 

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