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Food Waste Part III – Food Banks

on August 21 | in Ag News | by | with No Comments

Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Suzanne Armstrong, CFFO Director of Research/Manager of Board & Committee Services

Food Waste is a significant problem in Canada, and globally. This is the third and final commentary in a series on food waste. This week’s focus is on the role of food banks in redistributing food that might otherwise have been wasted. Waste from production through to retail sale and household waste were the focus of the previous two commentaries.

Food waste is tragic, especially since it takes place right next to the problems of hunger and food insecurity. This is true both in the developing world and in wealthy nations. The logical solution seems to be to catch as much food as possible for redistribution to those in need before it is wasted. In Canada, this is largely done through the work of food banks.

Considering the enormous value of food that is wasted in Canada each year, estimated at $31 billion dollars in 2014, it is disturbing to think how many in Canada at the same time go hungry or suffer from food insecurity. Food Banks Canada estimated that in the same year, 2014, there would be 14,178, 252 visits to a food bank across Canada.

As part of Ontario’s Local Food Act, passed in 2013, Ontario was the first province to institute a tax credit for farmers donating to food banks. Bill 36 was brought forward by Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey. As his website describes, the tax incentive “creates a non-refundable tax credit worth 25% of the current market value of the donated agricultural product to farmers who donate to a community food program, including a food bank.” Since then Quebec and British Columbia have followed suit with their own similar tax credit. For those farmers interested in taking advantage of this tax credit, the Ontario Association of Food Banks has a helpful brochure.

While we may consider hunger primarily an urban problem, in fact rural areas also have significant need for food banks. According to Food Banks Canada, “150,000 Canadians in rural communities rely on a food bank.”Food banks in rural areas face particular challenges including the extra cost of transportation, and the more dispersed population they need to serve.

As was pointed out previously, food waste in developing countries happens mostly between the field and retail sale. An article from the UK tells the story of an organization in Nicaragua called Camanos Juntos or “Eat Together,” which is trying to capture and redistribute retail food before it spoils.

Since so much food waste in North America happens in the home, this is a great place to capture food for redistribution. Buyer’s remorse over something bought in bulk on sale could be turned into generosity by donating the extra to help someone local in need. Reducing food wasted at home can also reduce grocery costs, leaving more to donate to causes like food banks. Since summer months are a particularly needy time for our local food banks, someone will certainly be happy to receive it.

(Visit CFFO’s home page – christianfarmers.org – to view related links to this post.)

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