Want to reduce food waste? Today is the day.

  • National Newswatch

Waiting for a bike? A couch? What about waiting for fresh food? COVID flipped our sense of supply chain reliability on its head.

Even Canada's usually reliable food supply chains were disrupted, resulting in higher prices and more waste as food travelled long distances and spoiled in transit. Worse yet was food that could not be shipped and spoiled in the warehouse, leaving some Canadian communities with little that was fresh and even less that was affordable.

Before food hits the shelves of the grocery store, 14 percent of it has already been lost according to the United Nations.

At the store, some food may never see a fridge and be thrown away - making up the two percent of global food produced that is wasted at the retail level.

At home after a busy week, you may find yourself throwing away a wilted bag of spinach - representing the 11 percent of global food that is wasted by households.

But that's not all you're throwing away. You're also throwing away the water, land, energy and emissions, labour, and capital used to produce that bag of food.

Food loss and waste undermine the sustainability of our food systems. With the time running out on climate change, many scientists agree reducing food waste makes a difference.

But you know that, everyone knows that.

As someone who has dedicated my time to growing a company that wants to make growing food locally easier for all, I see social enterprise as a partner for year-round fresh, healthy, affordable local food, even at -50 degrees.

The federal government can play a role, enabling remote and northern communities, to take charge of their own food sovereignty and food waste reduction.

In remote and northern Canada, we rely on planes and trucks to deliver price-subsidized leafy produce and fruit that has been shipped thousands of miles, adding to consumer and GHG emissions costs and subtracting from shelf life. A solution? The Government of Canada could expand the terms of the Nutrition North program to enable local food to compete and improve pricing transparency to ensure the full subsidy is passed on to consumers. Reduced costs to northern and remote consumers and less food waste would be the result.

But we also need the federal government to support agile businesses and organizations working on the local level to create a food system that works better. Locally led businesses and organizations can operate on a smaller scale and be responsive to community needs.

At Growcer, we empower local organizations and farmers to use our modular hydroponic farms to grow fresh produce year-round. The modular farms are about the size of shipping containers and can be placed anywhere there's a water and power connection. This allows food to be grown hyper-locally. Behind a grocery store. Beside a school. In the heart of a community. All year-round.

Growing food locally allows for a better alignment between demand and affordable supply, reduced food waste, and reduced spoilage from large, bulky supply chains. You'll also be less likely to throw away food knowing your neighbour poured six weeks into growing it. Growing food locally helps to reduce food waste.

Local food businesses also allow customers to keep their dollars within the community and invest in the longevity of their neighbourhoods.

We know we're not the only business trying for a better food system. There are many of us out there. And we also know that growing food locally isn't going to solve all our problems.

Growcer helps our customers build businesses around their container farms. For example, Gitmaxmak'ay Nisga'a Society runs a produce subscription box and donates the surplus food to those in need after breaking even. In Norway House Cree Nation, they opt for a wholesale model growing produce for the local school and hospital. Our partners are growing food locally, but they're also growing their local economies.

When it comes to solving complex problems like food waste and food access, the solution is supporting local:

Support locally grown food  -  now possible in more areas thanks to advancing technology.

Support locally-led organizations and businesses - especially those who create community-focused solutions that stick.

Support local supply chains  - because when the world paused briefly during a pandemic, it was the strength of our local communities that kept us fed and held us together.

And if we dare to dream bigger, maybe a future International Day of Reduction of Food Waste won't be necessary either.

Corey Ellis is the CEO and Co-Founder of Growcer.ca, an Ottawa-based company created in 2016 to improve access to affordable, locally grown food year-round, thus also reducing food waste. September 29th is International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste and Growcer is proud to be playing a key role in bringing fresh produce to communities to build local food sources and food supply resiliency.