According to a report from a global food consultants group, Canadians waste a third of the food available for consumption each year, which is enough to fill 66,000 rail cars.

The report from Value Chain Management International takes a look at food waste in Canada compared with the rest of the world and gives recommendations on how to mitigate and manage it.

The findings show that the demand for food is increasing and that the world will need to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed nine billion people by 2050.

The report suggests that changes need to be made in the way food is produced, handled and managed in order to meet current demands and that feeding an increasing population can’t happen without significantly reducing food loss and waste.

VCMI says quantum leaps in food sustainability must be industry-led and supported by government policy but that individual conservation is also important as nearly half of food waste is by consumers.

Food waste in Canada’s Food Value Chain (percent distribution)

  • Consumers - 47 percent
  • Processing - 20 percent
  • Retail - 10 percent
  • On farm - 10 percent
  • Restaurants and hotels - 9 percent
  • Transport and distribution - 4 percent

(Source: “Food Waste in Canada - $27 Billion Revisited” – VCMI)

 “It comes down to greater coordination, in terms of what food is grown where, what types of food are grown where and how that food is used,” said Dr. Martin Gooch, VCMI study co-author. “It’s a very complicated challenge that can only be addressed from industry and government and representative groups working together.”

VCMI says that prevention at the earliest point in the value chain is the only way to fully address the impacts of food loss and waste on society and entire food chains may need to be retooled to tackle the issue at the root.

“There is sufficient evidence out there from eminent researcher and commentators to say that we are living beyond our needs. If we continue down this road, in the long-term, I really do not want to think about what may happen in terms of the availability of our food, it will certainly decrease.” said Gooch.

Katie Klein co-founded Alternate Root YYC, which is a local initiative aimed at reducing waste and creating a healthy and sustainable food system.

“Food consumption and buying has become so common place we're not thinking about what we're throwing out and what impact that's having on the environment and your wallet,” said Klein.

VMCI says the world will run out of food unless more of us start to think like Klein and the CEO of Calgary's food bank agrees.

James McAra say his organization routinely approaches industry with novel ways to prevent waste; like saving good beef from government destruction during the BSE crisis.

"We were actually able to get domestically produced beef product that was free and clear of the BSE, but because of international pressures couldn’t leave Canada, so we got permission from Alberta agriculture to redistribute export only product domestically," he said.

McAra says in his experience when it comes to food preservation, government follows, not leads.

“Stop trying to deal with what happened ten years ago. Please get ahead of us, listen to us and engage us to say what do we need to happen in the future?” he said.

Alternate Root YYC has a few suggestions for reducing food waste in the home:

  • Shop your fridge and pantry before you go to the store
  • Use up aging veggies in soups and stews
  • Freeze aging fruit for smoothies and baking

For more on the report, 'Food Waste – Aligning Government and Industry Within Value Chain Solutions' click HERE.

(With files from Lea Williams-Doherty)