Hélène's blog

My personal journey with food waste started October 2011, although I didn’t realize that it would have a personal impact at the time.  It all started with what I learned.  Dr.Ralph Martin, Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production, University of Guelph, delivered a keynote speech about how we are going to feed ourselves in the future.  Amongst the insights, Dr. Martin provided compelling evidence that we/Canadians are throwing out 40% of all the food we produce.  Every year $27, 7 billion worth of edible food is wasted.  And more bad news – we householders are responsible for 51% of it!  That’s 183 kg per person!

Well, not me, thought I!  Sure we pretty much fill our green bin each week but it’s with the inedible stuff.  We don’t waste good food at our house.  l can’t – it’s bred in my bones not to waste.  My mother trained me to be frugal.  What’s more, I’m informed given my professional work as a market researcher in solid waste diversion and in rebuilding our local food system.  I know how to shop and prize local and organic food. And, I know how to cook – in our house we place high priority on cooking and sharing great food.  We must be among the minority, I imagined, who simply don’t waste food that can be safely eaten.  I was in a state of denial. 

Then I decided to put my green bin waste on trial – what are we filling it with?  Understand this was a theoretical exercise only…but the closer I looked, the more I saw.  Did we overbuy?  Did potentially  tasty leftovers get ‘lost’ in the fridge? (I have long preferred smaller fridges, not the humungous monsters that are common.) Did we get tired of eating that big pot of – you fill in the blank?  Guilty on all three counts.  As the old saying goes, “l looked at the problem and the problem was me.” 

Suffice to say we now shop more carefully with an eye to our schedules and a more realistic estimation of our needs.  We make an effort to use everything that’s eatable.  That means freezing, dehydrating or and canning more things.  We make more stocks, soups and stew with wilted produce and leftovers.  We’re learning to reduce our food waste ‘footprint’.  It’s a continual work in progress and – it can be fun!  Now I hope that I am better aligning my practice with my principles.  Try it yourself.  See how you fare and save money too – up to $28 per household each week.  That’s the guestimated value of food that the average Canadian household of 2.1 members wastes on throwing out perfectly edible food each week.  Time to put your practices under the microscope? 

I recently woke up to the CBC radio news that, "One of the world's most vibrant economies is about to come to a standstill."  Wait for it!  What new financial calamity is upon us today?  Well, dear readers, the story was about....can you guess?  The story was that Brazil was in annual Carnival mode - five days of celebration.  No it was not a disaster, but then perhaps all this revelry means that people are not working.  On the other hand, things really aren't that dire for Brazil during Carnival given the revenues generated by tourism.  But the bigger question is why does the media continually frame events in economic terms?  Aren't there are 'values' that drive our lives and warm our souls?  Perhaps we could set a new compass guided by Monty Python's joyful dictum:  Always look on the bright side?

Welcome to the era of DIY online surveys!  It's so easy now with the survey chimps, monkeys, gizmos etc. Now  anyone with a question or up to 20 of them can conduct an online poll.  But not so fast!  The software programming is only one part of a bigger, complex puzzle.  The old rule, "garbage in, garbage out" still prevails.  Well meaning companies, organizations and individuals short-circuit the market research professionals by doing it themselves.  Pity is that the expertise that is being ignored are the skills to design an effective questionnaire and to analyze the data.  So if you possibly can consult an expert who will help you get it right.  Otherwise you may be making decisions based on....garbage.

Los Angeles courtrooms are busy.  There's the media saturation case against Michael Jackson's doctor and there is one that has potentially some real health implications for Americans and Canadians.  Big sugar is suing big corn for using the term 'corn sugar'.   They contend that this is a tactic to regain market share for   now suspect high-fructose corn syrup.  So I guess the logic is let's just give it another name and consumers will feel better about consuming all that sugar.  Nice work but the American Medical Association and other expert groups say no matter what you call it both sugar-sugar and corn sugar are metabolized by the body in the same way.  So what's the problem, you may ask?  According to Statistics Canada every Canadian consumes the equivalent of 26, yes you read it correctly, 26 teaspoons of sugar each day.  This translates into 21.4 per cent of caloric intake.  While two thirds of it comes from the four food groups, one third is from items such as soft drinks, salad dressings, syrup and candy that provide no nutritional value. Call it what you want but either way isn't there just too much of that sweet stuff in our food?   

Some agricultural experts have concluded that organic food penetration has peaked at 3%.