“Fight Against Food Waste Act” falls, embers remain

By Paul van der Werf @allfoodisfood

Bill C-231 “The Fight Against Food Waste Act” was defeated on 5 October. Brought forward by NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the bill sought a National Fight Against Food Waste Day and a number of measures that would help better quantify the actual amount; further facilitate food donations and set a target for its reduction. I suppose the bill’s failure shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given the snowball’s chance private member’s bills are given.

Still for a government so bent on changing the face of Canada’s climate change policy they clearly seem to be unaware of the climate change impact of wasted food. If greenhouse gas generation from food waste were a country it would be number three, right behind the total GHG generation of the United States and China. If that isn’t a big enough problem, then consider the 8% of Canadians that are food insecure during at least part of the year. I know it will seem strange to say it this way, but, we are making a choice between feeding people and feeding the microorganisms that create the potent greenhouse gas methane, while munching away in our landfills. If that is not a big enough problem, then consider the $600 plus dollars the average Canadian family rolls up into a ball and throws into the garbage each year- just from their household food waste.

Some of the rationale in defeating the bill was disappointing. The government tried to conflate reducing food waste with feeding waste to food insecure people. Even a cursory read of what this is all about shows that the goal is about making sure that perfectly edible food is eaten…by someone. Burying this issue in a Food Policy, as was also suggested, just means that it won’t be addressed on a federal level. People don’t like to talk or think about waste but the point is that this is not really about waste. It is about preventing edible food from getting there.

A key takeaway from this process is in some of this issue’s semantics. This issue is not about food waste. It is about food that some of us choose to throw away while others look for food. The language needs to be changed to make it clearer and more understandable.

Still the private member’s bill served a purpose. It raised the issue at the National level. As other countries have decided this issue deserves national attention and quite frankly national leadership. We saw leadership from some and abdication (even in the face of some eloquent and thoughtful debate) from others. Hopefully within the embers of this effort there remains a spark that will keep moving this important issue forward.