Vancouver tackles problems with food waste during inflation

While the City of Vancouver attempts to deal with food waste, others say that more could be done.

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By Michael Su

As the City of Vancouver prepares an initiative to reduce food waste, a professor in UBC’s faculty of land and food systems says the city’s goal does not go far enough.

The city is introducing a new system to help the local food industry tackle food price inflation. The Circular Food Innovation Lab will launch on April 27 and will focus on documenting and advising on ways to reduce food waste.

UBC’s Will Valley believes there are much more pressing issues than a management plan.

“The act of wasting food isn’t considered a moral or ethical dilemma,” Valley said. “It is just the cost of business. That’s why when we’re in an industrial capitalist food system we will always have this issue.”

In 2019, the Canadian food industry lost an estimated $39 billion in revenue due to 8.79 million tonnes of avoidable, unplanned food waste, according to the City of Vancouver. In Vancouver alone, businesses discarded 25,000 tonnes of edible food that year, an amount equal to 37,000 meals lost.

Alternate ways to solving food waste

According to Valley, universal basic income guarantees could be the solution to the food waste problem.

“Imagine a universal basic income where all people, all citizen and residents and those who don’t have that status in Canada, have access to money to adequately buy food with dignity from grocery stores,” Valley said.

Rethink2gether is a Vancouver-based, food waste consulting company developed to help commercial kitchens reduce food costs and improve their business.

“An average restaurant in B.C. spends around 50 grand a year on food that’s never been eaten,” said Ben Liegey, co-founder of Rethink2gether. “An estimation of how much you can save is around 30 per cent within the first year, and that is significant.”

Setting a standard for food sustainability

Environmental services such as Rethink2gether have already started setting an example as to why food sustainability consultancy is essential.

“The first action you can take on the food business is to track food waste and to really understand what is happening in your operation,” Liegey said.

Karen Lee, director of marketing and communications of UBC faculty of land and food systems, says the city initiative can bring better supplies management into the food industry.

“At a global level, we throw away about one third of all food produced for human consumption, with fresh fruit and vegetables seeing the biggest losses,” Lee stated in an email sent to the Voice. “It’s an exciting step in starting to address actions that can combat food waste and help increase food security within communities.”

Valley believes that the Circular Food Innovation Lab is done in good faith and the City of Vancouver is recognizing this issue, but municipal governments do not have enough power in the current system to make drastic changes.

“This is an indispensable but insufficient approach to food waste and hunger in our society,” Valley said.

The City of Vancouver did not respond to an interview by deadline.

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