Food for thought
The media tells us Canada wastes about $31 billion worth of food each year. The figure comes from a 2014 report by the consulting firm Value Chain Management International and is widely quoted by news outlets.
Nationally, householders are pinpointed as the biggest offenders-and that seems true for us as well. According to the local website Re Think Waste NL “…each person in Newfoundland and Labrador generates 2kg (4.5 lbs) of waste per day.” In a province of roughly 526,000, that’s hardly insignificant. It is also true that some of our businesses need to take more interest in preserving this most precious resource.
A senior staff member at a store who requested anonymity for fear of getting in trouble said good food that looks imperfect is thrown out. “If it doesn’t look too bad, we’ll try to sell it, but generally speaking we do throw it out. Unless we can use it in something else, well, I’ll just say that yes, we’ll throw it out,” were the comments.
The person later reversed and said as far as they knew quality food was not ending up in the garbage. “For the most part, anything that’s thrown out is definitely no good. It’s usually mouldy, or there’s spots on it that you can put your fingers through, you can’t sell it.” Quite the reversal!
Juanita Drover, the franchisee for Foodland in Carbonear says fresh food is tossed on its bestbefore date. When asked if good food is thrown out if it looks imperfect, she said, “Yes, we have to. It’s food-safety policy. If it’s juice, it’s dumped in the sink, milk (is) dumped in the sink, canned goods are sent back to Sobeys.”
But fresh foods which have not reached their best-before date that look imperfect are sold, “if they’re not mouldy or rotten. If it’s good quality, (just) deformed, no we won’t throw it out. If it’s bruised or rotten, it goes in the garbage.”
While Drover didn’t say what sort of cans were being returned to Sobeys, Jennifer McCrindle, manager, external communications, Sobeys Inc. explained her company’s policy on them.
“Foodland franchisees are not required to ‘send cans back’ to Sobeys once they reach the labeled best before date … store operators are invited to send defective cans back for refund (i.e. swollen, dented, pitted, rusty),” she said.
Her email further states her company is presently trying to implement a food donation program for Foodland stores which it plans to introduce to Newfoundland in late 2018 (or) early 2019.
It’s unfortunate that good food is wasted really, but obviously they don’t want to take chances.
Carbonear Foodland donates roughly $1,000 in cash and food each year to food banks. Dominion in Carbonear donates perishables before their best-before date to the charity to which it’s matched and an email from Loblaws describes the chain as “one of the largest contributors to food banks in the province.”
A statement from the Powell Group of Companies says its supermarkets “contribute to local food banks… on a regular basis.” Loblaws also sells oddly shaped fruits and vegetables at reduced prices in its Naturally Imperfect line.
But how are we to get more meats and dairy products into our food banks? Mark Boudreau, director, corporate affairs, Loblaw Atlantic says most perishable foods seldom see the inside of this province’s food banks. Unlike other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, we have no refrigerated trucks to transport them.
Eg Walters, general manager of the St. John’s-based Community Food Sharing Association, the organization dealing with all food banks in the province, says his association doesn’t have a refrigerated truck because it doesn’t get enough meat and dairy products from supermarkets or other private enterprise to warrant it. He also described the cost as prohibitive.
Trucking companies say the purchase price is roughly in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. You can rent such a truck for about $1,000-a-week or around $200-a-day, but most food banks do not have that kind of money. They are run by volunteers and operate on shoestring budgets.
According to Walters, our food banks are mostly “run (from) church basements.” So, they are small and do not have the space to accommodate the fridges and freezers needed to keep food healthy enough to distribute to clients.
It is regrettable when some, perhaps most, of our approximate 54 food banks lack the space or the capacity to offer nothing more than a bland diet of non-perishable packaged and canned goods. It is here that food banks can help themselves by looking for corporate sponsorships, government grants or tapping into the millions of dollars the Walmart Foundation has, so they can move to a bigger space or buy refrigerated units to improve quality.
I believe the Community Food Sharing Association should lobby more aggressively to supply all food banks in the province with meats and dairy products. Walters says a refrigerated truck is not necessary, but it may be a case of getting the truck and the meats, eggs and cheeses will follow. The purchase of a second-hand model may be an option and if he hasn’t already done so, he might try the garages to see what leads, if any, they will give. He could also lobby for government subsidies.
Supermarkets and other retail outlets, as well as their customers are the biggest donors to food banks and that is commendable. It would be even more commendable if we could get more nutritious foods onto people’s plates. Most commendable of all would be for those who are wasting food to stop it. What you are chucking that could help feed the roughly 23,000 people in the province who rely on public charity to survive.
So, what is the best option? Well, that would be to give people money enough to buy what they want and not accept what others think they need.