There’s been a statistic rolling around in my head ever since I finished writing the story about Second Harvest in this week’s edition.
Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel tells me that, on average, 58 per cent of the food we produce gets thrown out.
That is completely ridiculous.
Personally, I can’t stand it when the last piece of bread gets mouldy. Wasting food is among my greatest pet peeves, so to learn Canadians are being so wasteful of what is probably the most important resource we have demonstrates just how much we take for granted in this world.
It’s been well-documented that most of history’s famines were not caused by a lack of food. Almost every time the food was there, it just wasn’t accessible because it became too expensive. Here in the North, where a significant amount of people only work seasonally, many can also harvest food off the land to offset the high cost of food. But not everyone is so lucky.
So I’m glad food rescue organizations like Second Harvest exist. Thanks to a one-time $11 million grant from Ottawa, the organization was able to save thousands-upon-thousands of pounds of food and get it to people who need it.
Ottawa should make this a regular program. $11 million is literally a drop in the bucket for a government with a $276 billion budget. Divided among the 27.5 million taxpayers in Canada, that comes to $2.50 from each of us — a paltry investment to ensure no one in this country has to go hungry.
Of course, money talks. So to sweeten the idea further, imagine the job security that would also extend from a regular program such as this. Warehouses that have been frozen in place after the waves of lock downs shuttering restaurants and bars would be able to keep in regular operation. Producers of food, be they farmers, ranchers or greenhouses would also be able to focus on what they love to do instead of wondering if they’ll be in business next year.
Similarly, moving food from warehouses to remote communities would ensure the entire logistical supply chain was able to stay in operation. With that $2.50 from each of us, hundreds of jobs could be saved.
Long-term economic benefits are even greater — it’s a well-known fact among educators that students learn and focus better when they’re well-fed. A nourished student is an educated one, and those educated students are then far better equipped mentally and physically to enter the workforce. If, as our local Children First board members note, every dollar spent on Early Childhood education translates to up to $13 in savings down the line, imagine what $2.50 spent on making sure they are getting the needed nutrients would do.
A program like this, coupled with the amazing produce output of greenhouses like the one we have here in Inuvik, could solve a great deal of food security issues across Canada. Ottawa should be making this a number one priority.
Canadians take a great deal of pride in their food, whether we’re talking about Alberta beef, Nova Scotia lobster or Northern caribou.
We can do better with our pride than throw 58 per cent of it away.