The value of food loss and waste in Canada is estimated to be $31 billion a year. Of that amount, about half of the loss occurs before food makes it to people’s homes, while the other half is food that consumers throw out after purchasing.
To put it into perspective, that is almost 30% of the value of what the Canadian agriculture and agri-food system generates. Waste contributes 10 to 20% to the price of food paid by consumers.
14% of food that is lost or wasted occurs in the distribution and retail parts of the journey from farm to fork. As Canadians become increasingly concerned about food waste, more people have come to realize that food banks are an important part of the solution to distributing unsold food.
At Hamilton Food Share, 82% of the food we receive is from the food industry. Most of the frozen food and a large amount of the fresh produce we receive is donated by the grocery industry.
Fresh and frozen food makes up a whopping 2 million pounds of food that would otherwise not be sold.
A couple of the biggest reasons that food comes from stores and distributors are that they order more than can be sold and some items have slight imperfections that shoppers may pick over. For instance, tomatoes that are not ripe enough for many consumers or bananas that are too yellow arrive in large quantities. Some items may not be exactly what the grocer was expecting, such as cucumbers that are curly and not straight. Sometimes a time-limited promotion like a product related to a new movie has finished but the food is still perfectly good to eat.
Every weekday our trucks and drivers are picking up donations. Getting all of this food to neighbours facing hunger means that fresh fruits and vegetables go to people who cannot afford produce and food waste is reduced.
In addition to providing food to food banks, companies are addressing the issue in other ways. Walmart has committed to zero food waste by 2025 and Loblaws has introduced a Naturally Imperfect brand of produce.
Hamilton Food Share is constantly looking for new relationships to ensure that fresh foods are available to people in our community. If you know of a food producer or are one, we would be happy to work with you. Details about donating large amounts of produce are on our Food Industry Donations page.