Minimizing our food waste this Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, October is the time to be grateful for the farmers and the cooks who bring food to our table every single day. And what better way to celebrate the local bounty than sharing a feast with our family and friends? But Thanksgiving is also a time to reflect on the destiny of uneaten food, the days after the feast. I’m talking about the days when eating another slice of that delicious pumpkin pie is not so appealing anymore, the days when our fridge is overflowing with so much leftovers that it would require a full hockey team to eat them all.

Every year, a staggering 1/3 of all food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. In Canada, 47% of the food waste happens at the consumption stage of the food chain.[1]

food-wasteIn Canada, the total cost of food waste is equivalent to $31 billion per year; however, the true cost of food, accounting for the wasted resources, energy and labour along the food chain is closer to $107 billion[2]. The top wasted food in Canada are fruits (67%), vegetables (43%), boneless poultry (43%), boneless red meat (40%) and fish (31%).[3]

Awareness around food waste is growing so much that everyone seems to be talking about it these days. It will be the topic of the upcoming Canadian documentary movie, Theater of Life, at the opening night of Planet in Focus 17th Annual Environmental Film Festival in Toronto on October 20. Food waste will also be a key topic of this year’s Food Secure Canada Assembly 2016 “Resetting the Table” happening at Ryerson University in Toronto between October 13-16. The global community platform OpenIDEO is gathering ideas to dramatically reduce food waste by transforming our relationship with food. You can look at the 40 finalist ideas here. Finally, the #WhatAWaste social media campaign urges the Canadian Government to force supermarkets to donate unsold products to local charities, food banks or farms for animal feed or compost. You can sign the petition here.

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In order for you to reduce your Thanksgiving food waste, we have put together the following list of tips: (credits to Earth911 and Dietetic Directions).

  • Plan your meal in advance: Make a list before going to the grocery store to avoid impulse buying.
  • Estimate how much your guests will eat: A good rule of thumbs is 1lb of turkey or less per person and ½ cup per person for sides like potatoes, stuffing, peas and corn.
  • Use all of the vegetable: Vegetable skin is packed with nutrients. By keeping the potato skin (use a brush to remove the dirt), you will save you time and add nutrition to your meal.
  • Let your guests know how they can help: Assigning an item per guest will help make sure everyone brings something different. You can also ask them to bring their reusable containers for leftovers.
  • Use smaller plates and smaller serving utensils: This will help to minimize overconsumption.
  • Freeze your excess leftovers: Turkey will last 3-4 days in the fridge, but can last a couple months in the freezer.
  • Create new meals with your leftovers: BigOven is a great resource to look up recipes based on the ingredients you have AND check out the recipe from Julia Hanna on our website.
  • Compost excess waste: Food that hits the landfill emits methane, a greenhouse gas which captures 21 times more heat into the atmosphere. Composting or disposing of food waste using the Halton GreenCart is always a better alternative.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[1] Gooch, M.V. & A. Felfel. (2014). “$27 billion” revisited: The cost of Canada’s annual food waste. Retrieved from http://vcm-international.com/food-waste/food-waste-publications/.

[2] Gooch, M.V. & A. Felfel. (2014). “$27 billion” revisited: The cost of Canada’s annual food waste. Retrieved from http://vcm-international.com/food-waste/food-waste-publications/.

[3] Abdulla, M., Martin, R.C., Gooch, M., & Jovel, E. (2013). The importance of quantifying food waste in Canada. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 3(2), 137-151.