Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
‘Food loss and waste (FLW) has been a topic of much concern for producers and consumers alike,‘ says Stephanie Budynski, coordinating researcher with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. ‘It is a global issue that has the potential to affect stakeholders across the food value chain.’
The latest Trends in Retail examines food loss and waste and the current actions that are being undertaken to reduce FLW specifically within retail and food service space.
FLW is an economic, social and environmental issue, points out Budynski.
- FLW has financial implications and cost Canadians $17 billion in 2017. Not only does it affect farmers’ profitability, it also affects profitability post-farm gate.
- An increase in the demand for food, whether it is consumed or not, drives up prices and this would impact low-income families the most as a larger per cent of their income goes towards purchasing food. Furthermore, an increase in food efficiency could positively affect food security.
- Agri-food production is a resource intensive industry (for example, water, land) and this means resources are wasted when FLW occurs. In addition, FLW that ends up in the landfill produces methane, which contributes towards greenhouse gas emissions.
In Canada, studies have indicated that an estimated 12% of avoidable food loss and waste occurs at the retail phase of the supply chain. FLW may occur for a number of reasons including produce aesthetics, excess stock, best before dates, inadequate on-site storage and goods that are damaged upon arrival.
Studies have also indicated that in Canada an estimated 13% of avoidable food loss and waste occurs at the hotel, restaurant, and institution phase of the supply chain. FLW occurs for a number of reasons including plate waste, preparation waste and menu design.
‘In the goal of addressing FLW, everyone, from consumers, producers, businesses and government, has a role to play. The most preferred solution is to reduce the amount of waste generated. The next best solution is to recover FLW by donating surplus food to those who need it or manufacturing animal feed or other food products,’ says Budynski. ‘After that, the next best solution is to recycle.’
Some methods to address FLW in retail and food service space include labelling, technology and education. Over the past few years, retailers have attempted to reduce produce waste by implementing labelling programs that aim to sell produce that would not have traditionally met a retailer’s visual standard.
‘A number of technological solutions have been implemented to reduce FLW. For example, there has been development of free applications, like Flashfood and Eatizz, that allow for retailers to promote food products that are approaching their best before or expiration date. Some retailers have also started to track their inventory more carefully. This may include regularly scanning stock that is waste in order to compile data on why a product has not sold and where these products ended (for example, landfill, donation, etc.).’
In Alberta, steps are being taken to reduce FLW. For example, The Leftovers Foundation operates in three cities across Canada, including Edmonton and Calgary. In 2020, the Leftovers Foundation redirected almost 600,000 pounds of food from landfills to community members who needed it. This was equivalent to over 314,000 meals and over $1.2 million saved.
In addition, the Food Rescue App was developed as a tech-enabled solution to FLW, which allows volunteers to choose times, and routes that best suit their schedules. Because of this app, 146 service agencies benefited, 221 businesses were able to donate food and volunteers completed over 4,700 routes.
Read Trends in Retail’s Food loss and waste.