Student Voice: Is it possible to live off food thrown out by grocery stores?

Grade 9 student Kim Aerts of Reynolds secondary. Submitted

Grade 9 student Kim Aerts of Reynolds secondary. Submitted

Is it possible to live off of food thrown out by grocery chains? If so, why is it being thrown out?

About $31 billion worth of food is thrown out or wasted each year. Though countries such as France have made it illegal to waste food, Canada refuses to adopt these laws. Canadian grocery chains are wasting too much food but most Canadians are unaware of this.

To fix this issue, Canadians need to understand that food is being wasted by these companies, and that we, the consumers, are the reason behind this wastefulness.

We humans are a fussy bunch and major food companies are picking up on this. Farms and other vendors that sell fresh produce to grocery stores attempt to fit a certain criteria to keep up with consumer standards.

For example, bananas have to be a certain length and have a specific curve in order to be sold. If a banana is perfectly good to eat, but has a blemish or doesn’t look right, it won’t make it to the supermarket. Even if it does, we’re hardwired to think the blemish means it is harmful and that it should be avoided.

Because of this mindset, farms have to produce more food to supply stores with the best looking produce. In turn, this means that grocery stores can charge more for appealing produce in comparison to “beaten up” food.

The produce deemed ugly is thrown out. Some farmers have taken it upon themselves to keep the unacceptable food and use it to give their soil more nutrients, but there is still an absurd amount of food being thrown out by grocery stores.

Some stores such as Thrifty Foods and Cobs Bread lead by example. They choose to donate their leftover produce and bread to food banks and charities to reduce food waste. Not nearly enough stores are doing this so encouraging grocery stores to donate or sell leftover products at reduced prices would have a large impact on decreasing the amount of food waste they create.

However, companies are not the only ones at fault for food wastefulness. Much of this falls on us consumers, the average people.

One of the big problems is consumer greed. Consider this: when you see food on sale, you usually buy more of it. This is okay if you know that you are going to use it all, but Canadians are buying more food than we will use before its expiry date. This means it ends up getting thrown out and then we have to go out to buy more. It’s a never ending cycle that has to stop.

So, how do we stop it? To start, even just reading this helps. Becoming aware can help make a difference.

Small things can help make a difference such as making sure to compost and to cook meals with what you have and not what you feel like. Buying food that looks more blemished and that is less likely to be purchased can help reduce food wastefulness as well.

If you are more passionate about this, you can organize to speak or have other people speak about food waste at schools and workplaces. Or you can write a petition to have the government adopt a similar law to what France has.

More ways to take action include suggesting that compost bins should be located with the trash cans in parks and outside, and having grocery stores provide a separate bin for food that can’t be used.

If these ideas are too big for you, taking action in your community can be done on a smaller scale. The best way to help is by spreading awareness.

Food waste isn’t common knowledge so a lot of times, people aren’t even aware of the effect they are having on our environment. This is a rare instance where we have a huge problem that hasn’t yet progressed to the point where it is un-salvageable.

We can stop this before it is too we late. We just have to realize what we are doing to our home.

Kym Aerts is a Grade 9 student in the Flexible Studies Program at Reynolds Secondary.