October 1, 2018 6:00 am

COMMENTARY: Food is a terrible thing to waste

Chef Karen Barnaby shows Sonia Sunger ways to make nutritious meals, using food that would otherwise be thrown out.

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Being a highly trained and licensed radio dude, I get the opportunity, along with my co-host and Global news columnist Supriya Dwivedi, to interview a wide variety of guests.

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One of my favourites is Michelle Leslie. Michelle is a meteorologist by trade but she writes and talks about sustainability issues in a way that doesn’t condescend or lecture. Last week, we talked to Michelle about an issue that seems to be one of the biggest burdens North Americans can share when it comes to making this planet more liveable: the insane amount of food we waste on this continent.

READ MORE: Chefs use ‘throwaway’ produce to make gourmet meal at fundraiser

Just less than half the food produced in the U.S. and Canada is thrown away. It starts on farms where, because of quotas or over-production, dairy and produce is tossed away. Grocery wholesalers destroy perfectly good fruits and vegetables that don’t pass the eye test because of bruising. Restaurants that can’t grasp the concept of just-in-time delivery cut into their thin margins by throwing out the over-ordered supplies. And, thanks to a lack of meal planning, the average Canadian household is estimated to garbage-can as much as 40 per cent of the shopping cart.

Worldwide, that’s 1 billion tons of food, enough to feed two billion people. World hunger would disappear. Those emergency famine supplies so often hijacked from NGOs by some very bad people would never be needed.

WATCH BELOW: National campaign aims to trim Canadian food waste

To put it in perspective, if a family of four is spending $700 a month on food, and I’m being conservative, you’re burning $300 in cash every month.

I confess that happens in my family. You see a sale on cheese and buy three bricks.  One of them disappears into the fridge, only to be found months later, coloured a vibrant shade of indigo. You can easily knife away the mould, but hey, there’s another sale on Black Diamond at Loblaws, so why bother?

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Our discussion with Michelle touched on the responsibility parents have to make sure their kids are eating properly while, at the same time, remind them that wasted food is as unethical as any “bad for the environment” propaganda they get in class every day.

Too many parents shrug their shoulders and develop meal plans based on what their children will or won’t eat. I’ve read vacation reviews on Trip Adviser where fretful moms complain the five-star resort didn’t have chicken fingers at the dinner buffet and “that’s all my Colton will eat.”

READ MORE: Recipe for peanut broccoli with shaved lemon

This is the part of the column where the old man writer remembers not only spending three hours at the dinner table picking at the broccoli I was determined not to eat, but being lectured about the starving children in China who would kill for that toxic vegetable. If mom only knew about the marvellous joining of florets and melted cheese in the 1960s. I would have cleaned that plate in 20 minutes, tops.

Aside from the sheer waste of valuable after-tax income, the food waste poses another problem: methane. Worse than carbon dioxide, methane does an amazing job at keeping the planet warm. Much of that disposed food ends up in landfills and decomposes into greenhouse gas.

If you’re like most Canadians and toss away that much food but ride a bike to work for “the environment,” congrats on the busting thighs but you’re just as bad as someone driving a monster SUV.

WATCH BELOW: Tips for cutting down on food waste

We recycle clothes, why not food? Why is there a food drive every three, four months in most Canadian cities? Why do food banks need to be? There’s a whack-load of food out there: trays of meats, loaves of bread, heads of lettuce, all thrown straight into the garbage because we have created a society that considers the most basic human need disposable.

We never buy too much television, too much education or too much cell phone data.  Why do we do it with food?

Food for thought.

Mike Stafford is co-host of The Morning Show on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.Fo

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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