U of Sask., Metropolis of Saskatoon collaborate on meals waste discount analysis

Research conducted by the University of Saskatchewan in partnership with the City of Saskatoon has yielded recommendations to reduce how much edible food ends up in the city’s landfill.

Now it’s up to the city to decide what to do with the recommendations.

According to the U of S, between 30 and 40 per cent of all food produced annually in Canada is wasted. Food waste comes from many sources including households, restaurants and grocery stores.

Rachel Engler-Stringer, an associate professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the U of S and a lead researcher on the project, said the project started as a conversation between herself, a former student working on the topic and the city.

Rachel Engler-Stringer, a lead researcher for the project, said several recommendations came out of the report, but one of the main ones was the creation of a social enterprise to handle good food from restaurants and grocery stores. (University of Saskatchewan)

The study focused on reducing waste in the commercial and industrial sectors, rather than the household level, but Engler-Stringer said businesses in the food industry weren’t overly eager to find ways to reduce their waste when consulted.

“Their perspective was it difficult, it was expensive, that there were no real incentives to somehow reclaim or donate food,” she said. “It’s easier to landfill it.”

Recommendations aimed at making things easier

Engler-Stringer said some restaurants and grocery stores are taking steps in the right direction by composting or donating food, but have found that some recipient organizations can’t take all of their donations.

She and her team have recommended the development of a social enterprise that would take food from the businesses and transform it, as opposed to throwing it out.

“The transformation would employ people,” she said. “The food that would come out of that could then be sold either in restaurants or grocery stores.”

LISTS | Rachel Engler-Stringer spoke about the research with host Heather Morrison on Saskatoon Morning:

Engler-Stringer noted other organizations nationally and internationally already doing this, so the city wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel.

Other recommendations include a public awareness campaign, using food diversion apps and including food diversion in city planning processes.

Research ties in with city’s work

The recommendations have been presented to the city’s environment, utilities and corporate services committee, which will meet on March 13.

Katie Burns, manager of community leadership and program development for Saskatoon, said the city hopes to incorporate the recommendations into work already underway.

“We will continue working with the research team,” Burns said. “We’d like to do more and just see what opportunities we can pursue.”

She said the research came at a good time, as the city is working on a regulation that would require commercial and industrial businesses to divert recycling and organic waste.

Council will discuss what that program and enforcement will look like later this month.

Burns said the city has an estimated 13,000 tonnes of edible food waste that could be reused. That’s approximately 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, she said.

Burns added that while this is the first step in waste reduction for the commercial and industrial sectors, the city has already undertaken some residential waste reduction projects, including the implementation of a curbside organics program next year and a one-stop waste drop-off centre at the landfill.

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