Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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No, the USPS is not going to end food insecurity

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I know that I, and many others, have said it before (and I’m sure we’ll all say it again) but as long as there are articles like this coming out, it needs to be said that food charity is not the solution to food insecurity.

I’m certain that the students who came up with the idea of the United States Postal Service delivering food that would otherwise be thrown out to food banks and meal programs across the country was well-meaning. This may also help to reduce food waste, but it won’t decrease rates of food insecurity.

For those who haven’t read any of my ranting on food insecurity before, and who aren’t familiar with the subject, food insecurity is “the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints”. Food insecurity can mean not having enough food to eat, not knowing if you’ll be able to afford to eat tomorrow, not having access to safe nutritious food. It’s not a constant state. A person may be food insecure at certain times of month, certain times of the week, certain points of the year, or for periods throughout their lifetime. An important part of the definition to note is the “financial constraints“. Food insecurity is caused by inadequate income and no amount of donated food is going to solve that.

We may feel good about donating food or money to help others who are in need. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we need to stop kidding ourselves into believing that we’re fixing poverty and food insecurity through charity. The real solution to these problems is systemic change. It’s things like a basic income, living wages, increased social benefits, decreased precarious employment.

Trying to solve the problem of food waste is admirable but let’s not conflate the issue of food waste with food security.

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Follow Friday: Inglorious produce

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A friend shared this video with me recently. Seems to fit with my recent theme of supermarkets reducing food waste. This one was in France, rather than Germany though. It’s ridiculous that vegetables and fruits are all expected to have a certain appearance and that “misshapen” ones are turfed. It’s great to see these being used in popular products. One little quibble with the article: these rejected produce items wouldn’t have been trash for the supermarket. They would have been trash for the farmers as the supermarket would not have purchased the “inferior” produce from them.


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Follow Friday: Food sharing

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Apparently the Germans (besides having the best soccer team) are also leading the world in food waste innovations. Last week I shared the new package-less supermarket, this week the food sharing website.

I learned about this site from the NPR blog The Salt where they shared a little bit about the premise and its development.

Essentially, it’s like freecycle for food. You sign-up; then you can post food to share, get food from others, or meet people and share a meal with them. The idea is based on the fact that we waste a lot  of perfectly good food, and about half of that waste comes from households. You buy a cabbage but only use a quarter of it for a recipe or you’re going away and have perishables in your fridge or you buy a new cereal and you hate it. Instead of just throwing away, or composting, your perfectly edible excess food, now you can give it away through the website. Very cool.


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Grocery store lessons: food waste

Not so long ago there were a number of headlines regarding food waste in Canada. Apparently most of this food waste occurs at the household level (about 51%). Despite this, and the statement that 11% of food waste occurs at the retail store level, I have become increasingly aware of food waste whilst working at a grocery store.

Seeing how many (often still perfectly safe and palatable) foods get tossed at the store level has made me acutely aware of the extensive amount of food we waste as a result of our current food system. There are plenty of tips on how to reduce your household food waste. If you’re interested here’s a good list. I also really like how Chatelaine magazine has suggestions for how to use up extra ingredients from recipes in their magazine.

I’d like to propose that you go a step beyond this and help to reduce waste at the store level. Stop trying to find the absolute latest expiration date on the shelf. I know that most of you are guilty of this, I was too. I see people every day digging at the back of the fridge to get the furthest out expiration date. Before you do this, take a moment and ask yourself, “will I be able to finish this product (with the nearest expiration date) before it expires? Even if I won’t, will I completely finish it anyway?” If you’re able to finish it then please, take the product that’s closest to coming to date. If you’re going to use it any not finish it, please, do the same.

As we know, many foods are good past the expiration date. You can continue to safely consume many foods after they’ve reached that date stamp. However, stores are unable to sell them on or after the expiration date and those foods will go to waste. Just like how you’re not doing your health any favours by circling the parking lot for the spot nearest to the door, you’re not doing the environment, or economy, any favours by needlessly seeking out the latest expiration date.