An Appetite for Change on Food Waste

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) partnered with the Green Living Show this past weekend on a series of Food Waste Reduction events – an issue that is getting more and more (much deserved) attention.

On Saturday, the TFPC hosted “Appetite for Change: Food Waste Challenges and Opportunities”, facilitated by Lauren Baker alongside a panel of food waste experts.

The complementary presentations covered a variety of angles on food waste – from research to city waste to local opportunities – to a full, captivated audience.

Ralph Martin from the University of Guelph started things off by discussing their research on avoidable and unavoidable food waste in the home. In the summer of 2014 U of G conducted food waste audits of residential households as part of the University’s Food Waste Project, analyzing the relationship between attitudes and beliefs and actual waste production. The research shows that the average household wasted 4.51 kg of food waste per week. For much more information on U of G’s ongoing research, be sure to check out

Annette Synowiec with the City of Toronto focused the discussion for city residents to Toronto’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy, discussing the city’s waste strategy and why this is an issue that must be addressed now. The City of Toronto has been hosting discussions and consultations for its 2015 Long Term Waste Strategy; you can have your say here.

Jennifer Pfenning of Pfennings Organics brought a farmer’s perspective to the conversation, exploring how food waste (and avoiding it) can be dealt with on the farm – donating the ‘waste’, or feeding it to animals or the soil. The presence of a farmer to this discussion is invaluable, as its an important reminder that there are hard-working people growing the food for us that is needlessly going to waste.

Laura Rainsborough of Not Far From the Tree (NFFTT) then demonstrated how local community efforts can also be major players and heroes, with NFFTT’s success in urban harvesting capturing great amounts of food that would likely otherwise go to waste. Laura shares that every year, Toronto has about one and a half million pounds of fruit growing throughout the city. With a third of each NFFTT harvest (fruit picked from each space/backyard) going to social services, NFFTT certainly illustrates how issues are often intertwined, and part of a solution for one issue can often be a solution for another – feeding hungry people with an abundance of food that will otherwise likely be wasted.

And finally, Joshna Maharaj with Ryerson Food Services (Ryerson Eats) ended the panel on an energetic, hopeful note with her infectious passion for local, healthy food, bringing farm fresh food onto campus, utilizing “misshapen fruit”, and battling food waste by putting in a conscious effort to not create it in the first place. Joshna certainly demonstrated the might of an institution to move sustainable changes forward with powerful partnerships.

Among many takeaways from the 45-minute panel, a focal one was certainly an encouragement for the consumer to eat and support “ugly” fruit and vegetables, a campaign that is picking up traction globally (e.g. in France, UglyFruitAndVeg, and recently Loblaws).

When we show support for fruits and vegetables that naturally come in all different shapes in sizes, we’re taking an important step in the right direction toward reducing unnecessary waste and nutrients simply due to aestehtics. Of course, another important takeaway from the panel was that an enabling environment is surely an important ingredient to the food waste battle.