The Hamilton Spectator
Seeing daylight in the grocery aisles
In 2023, most Canadians have resolutions, often lifestyle-related — exercise, eat better, lose weight, and save more money. Saving money is the most popular financial resolution (55 per cent) according to Finder: New Year’s Financial Resolutions Report. Doing so is challenging, especially when food prices are climbing. Canada’s Food Price Report 2023 predicts that prices will increase five per cent to seven per cent this year.
What is responsible? There are complex factors, but two easy ones to understand are food loss and food waste (FLW). Simply, “food loss” occurs from discarded products during processing; “food waste” is what becomes discarded by retail stores, restaurants and households.
A government report estimates 13 per cent of Canadian fruits and vegetables go unharvested or get discarded. Strict retail standards concerning “food cosmetic appearance” like shape and colour, force many farmers to plow under their fields — in one case, enough otherwise edible cauliflower to feed a province.
Nearly 60 per cent of Canada’s annual food production is lost or wasted. To help rescue produce, two university students co-founded Vancouver’s Peko
Produce, offering discounts for “imperfect” produce.
The National Zero Waste Council estimates 2.3 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, costing Canadians $20 billion. The average household contributes 140 kilograms of avoidable food waste annually ($1,300 worth!) — 30 per cent in vegetables alone.
Higher prices do not necessarily result in greater farmer profits. For every dollar returned, farms incur 83 cents in expenses, according to Statistics Canada. Consider the viral photo showing five boneless chicken breasts sold for over $37 in the Greater Toronto Area. The grocer noted inflation, supply chain issues and avian influenza as cost factors.
Canadians are trying to be more vigilant. A Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytics Lab survey estimates 40 per cent of Canadians report trying to waste less. What should Canadians do?
The answer is to become more agri-wise and agri-literate. Informed shoppers understand how agriculture works — not just where food comes from, but who grows it, and how it affects life nationwide.
Here are 12 ways for decreasing FLW and improve understanding of Canada’s agriculture:
■ Clip coupons from newspapers or store websites;
■ Make food lists; buy only what is on them; never shop hungry;
■ Buy store or generic products over brand names;
■ Compare prices. Don’t assume stores with cheaper meat are cheaper throughout;
■ Use stores with loyalty/reward programs;
■ Avoid “shelflation” where fewer fresh foods are on shelves;
■ Buy “local” and acknowledge community farmers;
■ Buy in bulk with care. Items like industrial-sized flour and others at member-only stores may spoil before being consumed:
■ Look for online sustainable grocery delivery in your area;
■ Celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day on Feb. 15. Share Ag Day activities with family; cook a 100 per cent healthy meal ;
■ Promote Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM) in March and become more agri-literate. CALM integrates agri-education in K-12 classrooms;
■ Explore ThinkAg, a website about Canada’s agricultural careers and post-secondary scholarships.
With a little homework and learning how food gets from farm to table, the “save more money” New Year’s resolution can see daylight — even in the grocery aisle.