Giving Compass' Take:

• Research from Second Harvest identifies ways to prevent food waste and loss at every stage of the production cycle in order to address Canada's food waste crisis. 

• How can funders work to implement the suggestions in this roadmap? How do these suggestions translate to food waste issues in other countries? 

• Learn more about food waste globally

Accurate measurement of food loss and waste (FLW) is vital for economic and environmental reasons but it has not been consistent: many people in the food industry don’t take full advantage of the commercial opportunities that can be realized by addressing the root causes of FLW. This includes how much food loss can be prevented and rescued.

Second Harvest partnered with Value Chain Management International (VCMI) and consulted with over 700 food industry experts through online surveys and interviews to identify the root causes of FLW. With this data a framework was created for the entire food value chain to measure FLW. This study found a need to standardize measurement in order to compare results, create benchmarks and provide clearer direction for government, industry and consumer solutions. We would then be able to implement sustainable solutions to help reduce FLW, through prevention and redistribution. See the Technical Report for a detailed explanation of the measurement framework.

There are two types of food loss and waste (FLW):

Avoidable: This would include FLW such as apples that reach the retail store but are not purchased by consumers. This unexpected or “unplanned” FLW is the greatest opportunity to reduce FLW or rescue edible food. Because unavoidable FLW occurs in the production of foods and beverages that are subsequently lost and wasted, all types of losses and waste can be reduced to a degree.

Unavoidable: By-products that are inedible are thrown out, such as animal bones, husks, and the planned waste that happens when food is cooked and processed. This is expected or “planned” FLW

Barriers to reducing and donating food:

Issue: High levels of food waste, particularly at buffets The abundance of a buffet is shortlived: most uneaten food cannot be rescued and redistributed due to public health guidelines for safe food handling. In many cases, it cannot even be re-used by the caterer or restaurant for those same reasons.

Proposed action: Monitor sales and what customers most commonly leave on the plate to adjust the menu. In the case of catering and buffet, plate only what is needed and keep the rest properly stored so that unsold food can be donated to food rescue organizations.

Issue: the perception that it is costly and time-consuming to donate to food rescue organizations Food businesses perceive donating food to be an added cost, either financially or in time. This could be due to a lack of infrastructure and/or ineffective communication between potential donors and recipient agencies, or logistical capacity including transport, storage and cold chain (keeping product cold or frozen until pick-up).

Proposed action: Government to support food rescue network and capacity building to decrease the barriers of logistics and storage.

Issue: The perception of liability Food businesses state liability concerns as one of the main reasons for not donating food.

Proposed action: All levels of government can work to increase food industry awareness that Food Donation and Good Samaritan Act legislation exists in every province and territory in Canada, protecting businesses from liability when donating food in good faith.