By Amanda Rylott

According to a January 2019 report from Second Harvest, 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada is wasted. It’s disheartening to think that much food is wasted when there are many Canadian households who are food insecure. In the grocery store, food is wasted when it cannot be sold before its best-before date or donated.  Though best before dates are just an indicator of when an item is at its peak quality of freshness and taste, they have no relationship to food safety. These foods can be used by food banks up to one year past the best before date according to Food Banks Canada. Some items have expiry dates, which are associated with food safety. These foods include, protein bars, baby formula, and meal replacements. Items with expiry dates are not used by food banks once they pass this date.

The main reason many grocery stores do not donate their leftover food to local food banks is that corporations do not want to be held liable if someone gets sick from their donated food. The Ontario Donation of Food Act, created in 1994, essentially protects individual and corporate donors from any liability in relation to food donations. The Act assumes that people and organizations who donate food do so in good faith and, if there is an illness caused by some of the food they donated, they are not to be held responsible unless there was an intent to harm.

In the past, it has been thought that household consumers were the largest contributor to food waste – but more recently, it has been shown that the majority of food waste takes place within the food industry. That is not to say that individuals are not a part of the problem, but that corporations contributions to this issue needs to be a part of the conversation. There are many things you can do at home to help with the issue of food excess:

  • It is important to ask businesses like grocery stores and restaurants to start donating unsold food to food banks to increase the supply, and educate businesses about the Donation of Food Act. Raising awareness about the issue of food waste will make it more likely that nutritious food will be diverted from landfills and delivered to the people who are in need of it.
  • Do not throw out certain foods just because they are past their best before dates – most foods are good for years past the best before dates.
  • Buy less than perfect produce in the store. These items taste just as good but are usually left behind in the produce section and ultimately thrown away!
  • Start composting your food waste in your home or find local farmers who will take your food scraps for their compost.

The Compass receives donations every week from many local businesses (Costco, Via Rail, Cobbs, La Villa, Little Caesars, Pet-Valu and more). Most of these ongoing relationships started with a simple question. “What do you do with product you can’t sell?”.  This small question can have a lasting impact on helping feed the people in your community who are going hungry.

If you or someone you know would like to form an ongoing relationship to save food that would otherwise go to waste, please reach out to The Compass at info@thecompass.ca or call 905-274-9309.

If you have a few hours a month free and want to be part of the team who rescues food from local businesses and drops it off at The Compass please email volunteer@thecompass.ca

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