January is a time for setting intentions, resolutions, and goals for the year. Make 2022 the year to eliminate food waste. (Or, at least, significantly reduce and divert it.) There’s no time like the present! Our climate is in a crisis, hunger is on the rise, pollution and waste are out of control, and the only way forward is through radical changes and pledges by all to be sustainable from this moment onward.
Just how BIG is Food Loss and Waste?
Food loss and waste take place at every stage of the food chain in developed countries. Food loss happens long before the food gets to your home or even the grocery stores. Canada, for instance, grows millions of tomatoes every year. Hundreds of thousands of them are expected to not make it to the market. This is the first break in our unsustainable food systems. Many of them won’t leave the farm or greenhouse because of many reasons, including labour shortages to harvest and consumer expectations for perfection.
The number of resources, including our precious finite freshwater, that went into over-producing our food is astounding. Post-harvest and during processing, manufacturing, packaging, storage, and distribution, more food loss takes place. “Ugly foods” and mislabeled products often go to landfills, for example. At the retail and consumer levels, is where food waste happens.
The UN’s recent Climate Change report states that significant action must be taken to avoid global warming above 1.5˚C by 2030. Food loss and waste must be among some of the most urgent challenges to solve. For example, as deforestation occurs to plant new crops for our growing population, we must stop and ask ourselves why?
We Have Enough Food to End World Hunger
The good news is that we have enough food and farms to feed everyone and then some! We don’t need more room to grow crops for ourselves or for feed. Instead, we need to use what we have more efficiently and sustainably. We need to start valuing the preciousness of our resources (food and freshwater included).
It is up to all of us—from consumers, volunteers, and workers to governments, industries, businesses, producers, manufacturers, and distributors alike—to overhaul our broken food systems and curb our wasteful unsustainable habits.
This says nothing of rising hunger worldwide and at home in Canada. Globally, humans produce more than enough food to feed the world’s growing population. Yet, 811 million people go hungry. COVID-19, the climate crisis, and conflict have exacerbated the number of undernourished people, increasing by 161 million people from 2019 to 2020.
Average of 110,000 meals per day that was provided for by rescued food
Averted 162 million pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere
That’s the equivalent of taking 22,512 cars off of the road for one year
Second Harvest had help in achieving these outstanding numbers in Canada, of course. Thousands of generous donors, including farmers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and organizations across many different industries, along with an army of volunteers and workers all worked together on the same goals: No hunger. No waste.
2022 is the Year to Eliminate Food Waste
You can make a 2022 resolution to rethink how you value food. Rather than overshopping, buy just what you need. Choose the “ugly carrots” in your soup. Eat your leftovers and learn about best-before dates. Or, freeze what you can’t eat right away. Inspire others to do the same. Talk to your local grocers, farmers, government officials, and manufacturers to see what they’re doing—or how you can help. Donate your time and resources or volunteer at a community organization that rescues food and feeds your neighbours in need.
Together, let’s rethink our habits and make new, better ones (for us, our planet, and our neighbours).
The only difference between illness and wellness is the “I” and “We.” Together, we can fix the problem and become a part of the solution. Let’s make this year count and make it our collective New Year’s Resolution to eliminate food waste.
Happy New Year! There are no better 2022 resolutions than the ones that improve yourself, your habits, your health, and your impact on the planet all at once! We’re talking about simple eco-friendly food resolutions that can make a huge difference to so many.
Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third-worst emitter worldwide, after China and the U.S. Yet, if we all do our part, we can make a real and positive impact! This surplus, good food could be diverted and delivered directly to those organizations and people who need it most. In Canada, one in seven people struggles to put food on the table, in spite of the fact that our food production creates enough food to feed everyone.
Make your 2022 resolutions truly count this year by lessening your food impact on the planet and helping those in need. Here are 5 eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions to start doing now in your home—and make good habits for yourself, your community, and the planet.
5 Eco-Friendly 2022 Resolutions to Save the Planet
Resolution Idea #1: Eat Sustainably
Eat more vegetables more often, and less meat, less often. The footprint of meat is large because of the sheer amount of water, grains, resources, and energy that it takes to grow the feed that animals like grain-fed cows eat. When you do eat meat, choose free-range, grass-fed locally and ethically raised meat, wherever possible. When you’re meal planning for the new year, have a Meatless Monday every week. Or, if you’re having a Taco Tuesday, make them vegetarian. Make it your resolution to add more fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains to every meal.
Dan Barber, the famous chef and author of The Third Plate, wrote a manifesto that argues, according to the Guardian, for the “radical shift in what our dinner plate should look like: away from a slab of protein (even if grass-fed) with a side of vegetables (even if organic) and toward a plate of great-tasting vegetables with perhaps a seasoning or a sauce of meat. ‘The balance has to change,’ he says. ‘For all sorts of reasons we shouldn’t be serving a pork chop except on celebratory holidays and special events.’”
The key here is to think critically about what you’re eating and to make conscious choices to be more sustainable.
Resolution Idea #2: Support Local
Buying directly from local farmers is another great 2022 resolution for so many reasons. Not only are you buying fresh produce that is in season and full of good, healthy nutrients, but you’re also lessening the carbon emissions that it takes to bring the food to you while supporting your local community.
Distribution-wise, food has a large footprint when you think of all of the trucks, boats, planes, gas, emissions, pollution, pesticides, packaging, and refrigeration that it takes to get from the farm to your table. Locally farmed produce, on the other hand, travels much shorter distances and has a smaller footprint in that respect.
Likewise, you can often ask the farmer directly how your food was farmed and make informed decisions about what you’re putting in your body and how you’re spending your dollars. The local multiplier effect is a great way to make your dollars count. When you shop locally for groceries and buy local farm produce, your money stays within your community, recirculating to support other small businesses and your neighbours.
Resolution Idea #3: Learn About Your Food
Do you know how your food got to your plate? If you shop at a local farmer’s market, then you probably know how your food was farmed—and how much time, energy, money, and resources went into farming it and getting it to you. This information is power and it will help you place more value on your food. Hopefully, this will help you to think twice about letting it go to waste.
For example, knowing that one-third of all food produced globally (though mostly in developed countries) goes to waste, may help you change the consumption patterns in your household to be more sustainable. Make it a 2022 resolution to get informed on food consumption, food systems, and food waste in your country. There are many great educational resources to learn from and get inspired to make a positive and meaningful impact, including:
Our consumption patterns in developed countries are unsustainable and have to change. Make it a food resolution to do a kitchen inventory before you shop and buy only what you need. Too many of us overshop, buying too many food items that go bad before we even have a chance to eat them.
Buying only what you need will not only reduce your food footprint but also help you save money on food that will only go to waste. In fact, according to Second Harvest’s Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste report, the annual cost of food loss and waste is $1,766 in every Canadian household. That’s nearly $5 a day that your household likely spends on food that will go to waste. Make it your resolution to change that (for your wallet, but also for the planet and society).
Did you know that Second Harvest is the largest food rescue organization in Canada? It is our dual mission for Canada to eliminate hunger and food waste. We work across the supply chain from farmers to grocers to divert their good, surplus food before it goes to waste and redistribute it to non-profits and organizations that help feed those millions of Canadians in need.
From September 2020 to August 2021, Second Harvest (with the help of generous donors, agency partners, workers, and volunteers) rescued 41 million pounds of surplus food that was redistributed to over 6,400 nonprofit programs across Canada. This surplus food fed 4.2 million Canadians! That’s huge!
There is always more work to be done and great ways to get involved. Learn more about how to get surplus food to your organization or give food and funds with Second Harvest’s Food Rescue.
Beyond Resolutions for a Sustainable Food Future
Once you know the impact and cost of food waste in Canada and beyond, it’s hard not to think about it—or want to educate others. Share what you’ve learned here. Dig deep into where your food comes from and what happens behind the scenes at your local farms, grocery stores, manufacturing, and distribution centres. Get vocal with your food resolutions to help hold yourself accountable and inspire others to do the same. Talk to local business owners.
Get to know your community and meet your neighbours. Volunteer and donate your time to help those who do not have the same access to good food as you. Most importantly, don’t let good food go to waste—eat it!
This past year has been one full of hope, generosity, and community. The generous support of Second Harvest’s donors who share in our dual mission of hunger relief and waste reduction in communities across the country was absolutely outstanding. Second Harvest’s 2021 Annual Report has just been released and here is a look back at the impact you helped us achieve.
What’s most incredible is how much we can accomplish when we work together to feed our country. From food donors, delivery truck drivers, farmers, grocers, and volunteers to financial donors, governments, voters, and consumers, we all play a role in helping Canadians in need and protecting our environment.
Highlights From Second Harvest’s 2021 Annual Report
Thanks to the generous support of our donors and Canadians who helped rescue and divert surplus food to those in need, here is the impact we were able to make on hunger relief and reducing food waste on the environment.
Hunger Relief: Helping Feed Over 4.2 million Canadians This Year
Second Harvest was able to support over 4.2 million Canadians in accessing food at over 3,000 social service organizations. This rescued food, that would have otherwise gone to the landfill, provided an average of 110,000 meals across the country every day.
The impact of COVID is still being felt, especially by families on low incomes and those Canadians who found themselves unemployed at the onset of COVID-19. People who never had to rely on community food programs before started reaching out to their local non-profits, spurring the demand for fresh and healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and proteins.
For example, as a partner of the Surplus Food Rescue Program, Second Harvest received over 9 million pounds of fresh surplus food like eggs, salmon, chicken, and fresh produce donated from businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic. This food was delivered to over 350 local communities, from PEI to BC, and made into nourishing meals to support hunger relief.
Environmental Impact: Diverting 41 Million Pounds of Food From Landfills
Nearly 60% of food produced in Canada is lost and wasted annually, including 11.2 million metric tons that is edible and potentially rescuable, and it’s Second Harvest’s mission to increase the amount of food we recover every year. In fiscal 2021, Second Harvest rescued 41 million pounds of food – a whopping $120 million worth of deliciously healthy surplus food that was diverted from being lost to landfills.
Keeping edible food out of landfills meant that food did not decompose and release greenhouse gases. Food rescue averted the release of 162 million pounds of greenhouse gases – this is the environmental footprint equivalent of taking more than 22,650 cars off of the road for a year. It also prevented the waste of the 22.5 billion litres of water equivalent necessary to grow and produce that food.
By diverting surplus food to feed those in need, we’ve prevented needless waste and catastrophic environmental damage at every step along the food chain. And we are determined to do more.
Partners in Our Mission: No Waste. No Hunger.
This was all possible because of our incredible partnerships. Second Harvest has over 20,000 committed individuals, foundations, and corporate donors who are partners in our mission for Canada of no waste and no hunger.
Second Harvest is blessed with over 4,500 generous food donors, including Sobeys Inc., Conagra Brands, Costco, Mondelez International, and Loblaw Companies, as well as financial donors, including Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, The Sprott Foundation, The Weston Family Foundation, The Walmart Foundation, and The Nikita Foundation, to name a few.
Likewise, the Emergency Food Security Fund project allowed Second Harvest to provide emergency food support funding of over $8.4 million to 563 communities, or 1,385 organizations, dedicated to feeding Canadians in need.
“To each of you who have become a part of our Second Harvest community over this past year, and to those who have been loyal partners to us for many years, we absolutely could not have done this without you,” wrote CEO Lori Nikkel in Second Harvest’s annual report. “Consider us the facilitators: through your funding, food and other in-kind donations, you made this possible. We thank you and look forward to forging even stronger relationships in the coming year.”
Behind every hunger relief statistic is a person. And a story. The millions of Canadians experiencing food insecurity are our fellow neighbours, co-workers, friends, and community members. Imagine the same number of people living in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta combined are all fed by charitable organizations across the country.
The organizations that rise up to meet this outstanding need, feeding our fellow Canadians, are run by dedicated workers and volunteers, working tirelessly to support their community members. Our recent research, Canada’s Invisible Food Network, revealed that there are some 61,000 non-profit organizations and charities of all kinds, from schools, temples and churches to food banks and shelters, that provide food at no or low cost. That is four times the number of grocery stores in Canada.
This past fiscal year, Second Harvest helped feed an estimated 4.2 million Canadians at over 3,000 charities and non-profits from coast to coast thanks to our dedicated supporters—generous grocers, business owners, farmers, organizations, foundations, and of course, people, and community members themselves.
In the spirit of the holiday season, we are shining a light on the people behind Canada’s outstanding hunger relief efforts. They are the ones who are doing the life-giving work of feeding Canadians in a time of need and helping to protect our environment against the impacts of food waste.
Here are but a few of their stories from this past year. They are stories of hope, need, care, and community to inspire and warm your heart this giving season.
Meet the People Behind Canada’s Hunger Relief Efforts
Feed Nova Scotia Turns Gift Donation Into Meals
“For the thousands of Nova Scotians who struggle with food insecurity, your gift of 17,215 kgs of food represents the goodness of Spring. Thank you so much for caring, and for supporting our work. One in six households in Nova Scotia is food insecure, meaning they have inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints. Food insecurity can be devastating to someone’s emotional and physical health. We know because we hear first-hand from people who live it. We also hear about the difference it makes when people have access to food support through our network of food banks, shelters and meal programs across the province. This month alone, we’ll provide our neighbours across the province with a million dollars worth of food, as we continue to push for long-term change. It’s a big job, and it’s only possible with supporters like you by our side. Thank you for providing comfort, hope and possibility this Spring.”
—Nick, Feed Nova Scotia, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Providing Healthy Meals to BC Families in the Pandemic
“For the last year Agassiz-Harrison Community Services has been providing meals to families through our It Takes A Village family dinner program. And through that program, we would feed an average of 25-35 people on a very tight budget. When everything happened with COVID-19 we knew we wanted to keep these meals going and support our families. We had no idea what it would mean to our community. We are now serving 65-75 people every Monday night but still have the same budget! We were quickly becoming victims of our own success and were going to start having to turn people away. Thank goodness for Second Harvest! We now have enough to get us through the next several months and are able to say ‘yes’ to every family who needs a meal! Our clients are so grateful and so are we.”
“One client said, ‘I am a busy mom with an infant and a 4-year-old and my husband is never home at dinnertime. Not having to worry about making dinner solo once a week has been so helpful. We loved the community interaction that went with the dinner. Since COVID, we are even more appreciative of this service, as it is harder to get groceries with a family in tow. Our household income is being significantly impacted by the pandemic, having one healthy meal a week provided is such a blessing.’”
—Andra, Agassiz-Harrison Community Services
Shining a Light on a Hopeful, Generous Season
Ross Robinson of The John Howard Society of Brandon, in Brandon, Manitoba served over 15,000 hot and nutritious chef-inspired meals to folks in need during COVID-19. When Second Harvest contacted him to see if his community could use surplus food in the area, Robinson put the offer out. The need was profound and the response was immediate. Many local programs, especially schools, needed food and the surplus donations were coming in the nick of time.
As a message to generous donors who made it all possible, he said, “You single-handedly make a difference to thousands of people every week through your generosity.”
The Generous Food Donors Supporting Canada’s Hunger Relief
Second Harvest is blessed with 4,500 generous food donors who share in our mission of no waste, no hunger. Together, and with an army of logistics support (as you’ll soon read), we connect these outstanding donors with surplus food to those organizations and people who need it.
For instance, the Sobeys warehouse in Manitoba had a major food donation this past year for Second Harvest. Traffix Logistics generously provided the transportation, delivering the food to Winnipeg School Districts. A Traffix’s delivery team member wrote:
“I want to say that this program and the Second Harvest initiative, hold a very special place in my heart. Growing up, my mother was a struggling single mother of two. We often didn’t have enough money for food…We often had to use community resources, such as food banks, to survive the month. It is now, as a mother with a young daughter, that I realize how difficult it must have been for my mother and now for other families who struggle day in and day out.”
Canadians Helping Canadians in a Time of Need
The Honourable Bernard Davis, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change said, “The simple act of reducing, reusing and recycling our waste can have a tremendous impact in protecting our environment and supporting people in our communities in unique ways.” This statement couldn’t ring more true for us and our supporters.
It is our hope—and our mission—that every Canadian who experiences food insecurity will be fed through this circle of kindness.
Second Harvest is dedicated to continuing to look for opportunities to further serve our communities. We will continue to lobby and campaign against unnecessary food loss and waste and its harmful impact on our environment and people. We are hopeful for the future of our food systems and food security.
With your generous support, we look forward to another year of working with the inspiring people behind Canada’s hunger relief efforts. Thank you.
Canada has over four times the number of food charities than it has grocery stores. This shocking number should be a red flag for our country on many levels. For every Loblaws or Safeway, there are four faith-based centres, schools, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, clubs, and programs that offer food to 6.7 million Canadians who need food supports.
From big-box retailers to local corner stores, Canada has 15,344 grocery stores. Meanwhile, over 61,000 community organizations in Canada provide food at no or low cost to fill an essential need. “There’s no area that doesn’t suffer from food insecurity in the country,” Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel told Canadian Grocer. “It is outrageous to me that in a country as rich as ours, we have 61,000 organizations that have popped up to support people with low or no-cost food.”
“The bottom line is, people should be able to get their food from their grocery store because they have enough money in their pocket, wallet, or purse to purchase the food they need for themselves and their family,” Nikkel told CBC.
About 3,600 of those organizations are primary food providers, such as food banks. The rest provide food as a necessity on top of their main purposes, such as schools that offer meals or snacks. These non-profits are hidden away in every community and are often run by volunteers doing what they can with limited, donated supplies and ever-increasing demand.
This is Canada’s invisible food network.
Canada’s Invisible Food Network Report
Second Harvest is shedding light on the massive and essential patchwork of non-profits across the country that pick up the slack where our broken food systems and policies do not. In the first of its kind ground-breaking research, Canada’sInvisible Food Network report identifies and maps out all non-governmental organizations that feed Canadians, measuring quantity, food types and need, supply and demand, shortfalls, and the impact of COVID-19. The report was co-authored by Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International (VCMI).
“Our research shows that the charitable food system is a huge patchwork of vital but disconnected services,” said Second Harvest CEO, Lori Nikkel in a recent press release. “That’s not a sustainable model of a resilient food system, especially for our most vulnerable populations. What adds to the urgency is that millions of tonnes of unsold healthy food are going to landfill every year. We need to start bridging the food rescue gap now and this research gives us a literal map to move forward.”
This research is a first step toward understanding the big picture and building a plan to overhaul Canada’s systemic food issues.
The Shortfalls of Supply and Demand for Food in Canada
The Invisible Food Network report found that in 2021, 6.7 million Canadians (~18%) rely on community food organizations. That’s roughly the population of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan combined.
The dollar value of the food distributed by this network was $33 billion in 2020. By sales volume, that would have made them the second-largest grocery store in Canada. It is unacceptable that so many Canadians depend on community food organizations to put food on their tables.
Based on Canada’s food production, our country could feed every Canadian with a massive food surplus leftover. Second Harvest’s 2019 report, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste, found that 24.6 billion lbs (11.2 million metric tonnes) of potentially avoidable food loss and waste takes place in Canada every year. Much of this surplus could have been redistributed to the invisible food network—and the millions of food-insecure Canadians they support.
The Invisible Food Network of 61,000 Community Food Organizations
Unfortunately, the invisible food network is largely unrecognized, unorganized, disconnected, and struggling to keep up with the limited, disjointed supply and massive demand. Volunteers are stretched, doing what they can with what food comes in when they can get it. They need fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, and eggs to feed their food-insecure community members. They often get too much bread or grains in an influx, or unhealthy, yet more affordable, junk food.
Without proper resource management, coordination, and infrastructure, this invisible food network—that feeds almost 20% of Canadians—is unsustainable and needs our help. This became especially apparent in COVID-19.
Canada’s Growing Food Insecurity and COVID-19
Before COVID-19, an estimated 4.4 million Canadians, including 1.4 million children, lacked access to food. This number has been growing steadily for decades. The pandemic supercharged its pace. By May 2020, one in seven Canadian families struggled to put food on their tables.
Unemployment spiked and businesses closed, forcing many households to choose between putting a roof over their heads or food on the table. Disruptions to food distribution channels and COVID-19 protocols and closures put extra pressure on the broken food supply chain.
The result: food charities saw a 72% increase in the number of people served during COVID-19. The total weight of food and beverages needed to feed those in need went from 6.1 billion lbs in 2019 to 9.9 billion lbs in 2021—a 61% increase. If every meal weighs one pound, that’s nearly 10 billion meals that Canadians got from the invisible food network.
Making a Plan for Canada’s Sustainable Food Future
There is hope yet! Despite this huge increase in demand for food, emergency funding and the generosity and adaptability of many Canadians helped somewhat lessen the immense gap (or shortfall) between supply and demand.
This need is not going away. “The gap between rich and poor continues to grow. We have a lot of unemployment and underemployment,” Nikkel said to CBC. “We have an income problem, a housing problem, an affordable daycare problem.” With a better understanding of the invisible food network and demand, we can begin to bridge the gap between those who have access to excess food and those organizations that need it. We can build a sustainable plan from there.