Costs to taking food for granted

Issues of food security and food waste need to be addressed.

One-hundred dollars certainly doesn’t bring home as many bags of groceries as it used to.

The price of food is on the rise, and has been doing so steadily in Canada since 2012. In fact, Statistics Canada reports the food price index is now rising faster than the rate of inflation, and experts anticipate it will only get worse this year.

Contributing to this are the summer droughts in California, Washington and other agricultural areas we’ve come to rely on for much of our food, as well as the low Canadian dollar.

While there are strategies we can adopt to mitigate these costs, there are a couple of bigger-picture issues that also need to be addressed.

One, there needs to be greater buy-in to the food security movement. This means valuing and protecting the food resources we have, including agricultural land, and supporting those who work it (or are willing to). While British Columbia is vast, less than five per cent of it is agricultural land. Giving it up for suburban sprawl or even hydro-electric dams may not be in the best interests of future generations.

Second, we need to drastically cut back on food waste. According to a report by the Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC), Canadians threw away about $31 billion in food in 2014, up from $27 billion in 2010. This is food that’s ending up in landfills  where it’s creating methane. It’s also labour, water, plastics, paper and more. Factoring this in, the United Nations’s Food and Agricultural Organization suggests the true cost of food waste in Canada is in excess of $100 billion annually.

Recently, chef Darren Simpson of Salmon Arm’s Aquatico Bay restaurant decided to start using leftovers, that might otherwise have been thrown out, to make soup to give away free to those in need. Simpson explained he is bothered by the amount of food waste in North America, and supports new legislation in France that bans unsold food from being sent to the landfill. Food must instead be donated to charitable organizations or for animal feed. If incentives are needed to support this, then this is something we, as a nation, should explore.

We’ve had it good for a long time, but it’s high time we recognize there’s a cost to taking food for granted.