Flanked by Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association president Moe Vesey, and MP Alistair MacGregor on the left and Jan MacKirdy, program manager Nate Harben and Dennis Jess on the right, B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham stopped by Cowichan Green Community headquarters on Friday to announce $84,000 in provincial funding for the Cowichan Food Recovery Project. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Editorial: Waste not, want not; redistributing food good for everyone

We waste more than $31 billion worth of food in Canada every year.

We waste more than $31 billion worth of food in Canada every year. It’s a staggering number.

On one hand we have this tremendous amount of wasted food. On the other, we have people struggling to put meals on the table.

These really are complementary problems, and yet they continue to exist side by side, without the go-between that could alleviate both — or at least that’s largely been the case in the Cowichan Valley until now (though there are some small-scale very successful food recovery programs already running).

We were encouraged to see the provincial government announcement last week of $84,000 for Cowichan Green Community to create a system where unused food from farmers and grocery stores is collected and redistributed to those who need it.

It only makes sense.

The 2014 report that gives us the $31 billion figure, also tells us that doesn’t even include waste from prisons, jails, hospitals, schools and other federal institutions. Individual food waste is about $14.6 billion every year. Ten per cent of waste happens at the farm, and 10 per cent at retailers. The rest takes place elsewhere in the food chain.

So while this isn’t a perfect solution that will take care of all food waste in the Valley, it sure gets to the heart of a couple of the biggest sectors where food can be redistributed for the good of all.

We hope this program can prove to be such a big success that the model can be taken and replicated elsewhere in B.C. and across Canada. Our entire country needs to make strides on this issue, as Canada is far behind other countries when it comes to dealing with the food waste problem. In France, for example, supermarkets were forced to sign agreements with charities so no edible food is put in the garbage.

We also hope this program will inspire residents to take a look at ourselves on a micro-level. How many people left a tree to just drop its fruit last summer? Not only is this a food waste problem, it attracts bears to the area every year, sometimes putting them in the crosshairs of the Conservation Officer Service if they become too accustomed to eating at the backyard all-you-can-eat buffet. All it takes is a call to another of CGC’s programs, FruitSave, to solve this problem if you don’t want, or can’t deal with the fruit yourself.

The amount we currently waste is an insult to those in need both here at home and around the world. It’s past time for us to get our act together.

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