Here’s a not-so-fun fact: If the food wasted around the world were a country, it would be a greenhouse gas emitter rivalling China and the United States.
Where does food waste come from? Households are frequently cited and they’re an easy culprit: like those leftovers that linger in the fridge until tossed or the lettuce we buy but never eat. But the situation is also more complex: food loss and waste occur at every stage of the food supply chain and include millions of pounds of surplus, healthy food that never even reaches the consumer before it ends up in a landfill.
Once it’s in a landfill, decomposing food creates carbon dioxide as well as methane, and although methane accounts for only 14 percent of emissions worldwide, it traps up to 100 times more heat than carbon dioxide. This means that even though carbon dioxide molecules outnumber methane 5 to 1, this comparatively smaller amount of methane is still 19 times greater a problem for climate change and global warming.
The UN’s current assessment reports that “every bit of [global] warming matters” since warming “increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems.” To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
This is what food waste looks like. Surprised?
This bounty of gorgeous, ripe apples was not headed for retail or for the processor: they were destined for landfill – and this is not unique. Municipalities across the province regularly see this scale of farm-based food loss, for reasons including inaccurate forecasts to harvest surpluses to changing retail specifications. And this is happening while 13% of Canadians struggle with food insecurity and lack access to healthy food.
This story, however, has a happy ending: those apples didn’t go to landfill; they were rescued by Second Harvest, redistributed to a network of social service agencies and food hubs via Second Harvest’s fleet of refrigerated trucks, then eaten and enjoyed.
FoodRescue.ca: Local Partners, Global Impact
Given the intensely negative environmental – and social – impact of food waste, Second Harvest is stepping up our efforts to end it by launching our online food rescue portal FoodRescue.ca to connect social service agencies and non-profits across Ontario with food donors in their own communities.
Our goal is to lessen our environmental impact by enabling local recovery of perishable, unsold, surplus food to provide immediate hunger relief.
Thanks to the provisions of the Ontario Donation of Food Act, businesses have protection from liability when offering a food donation, and FoodRescue.ca takes this assurance one step further by asking that food donors and recipient organizations comply with our donation and recovery guidelines. All facilities also need to have up-to-date health inspections and food safe handling training.
Food businesses can set up an online account to post offers of perishable dairy, protein, prepared foods, along with any other edible items such as produce, baked goods, and fresh, frozen, or shelf-stable food products. Non-profits register and receive real-time updates via text or email about available food within their area and arrange the pick-up themselves. FoodRescue.ca also tallies the poundage of food rescued and calculates the greenhouse gases kept from being released so that food donors can see their impact and share those results.
What FoodRescue.ca is showing is that there are countless opportunities to rescue food, whether it’s bushels of apples from a commercial orchard or unsold sandwiches from a local café. Changes don’t need to be earth-shaking to be earth-saving – they just need to be made.
Further reading and resources
As part of the Food Working Group with the National Zero Waste Council, Second Harvest helped in the development of Guidelines to Minimize Wasted Food and Facilitate Food Donations, which is offered to FoodRescue.ca food donors and recipient organizations on the website.
FoodRescue.ca also offers one-sheets on safe transportation of temperature-sensitive food, as well as thermometer calibration and measurement guides and other capacity-building resources for both food donors and recipient organizations.
FoodRescue.ca also has resources for families about best-before dates, how to revive food, and how to cook for party-sized crowds and avoid waste.