Public awareness of food waste is currently at an all-time high. Every day seems to bring news of entrepreneurs, researchers and experts who are talking about wasted food and food rescue. All of this attention makes Second Harvest's Executive Director Debra Lawson hopeful that awareness will translate to action.
In Canada, we waste 40 per cent of our food every year, which equals $31 billion worth or about $864 per person. The "true cost," however, is as much as $107 billion based on the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimate that the value of food waste only represents 29 per cent of the true cost if one includes environmental and social impact. When you look at global food waste these numbers jump to an even more mind-boggling US$1 trillion as 30 per cent of all food produced on this planet goes uneaten while 800 million people go hungry.
You have to recognize how much we have in this world, and the realization has got to make you want to give back. It's for that reason that I've supported ONEXONE for many years. ONEXONE's mandate is to improve the lives of children around the globe. They just want to help kids be kids by making sure they have enough to eat, that they can go to school and that they can play.
Food insecurity is not as simple as being hungry, it encompasses experiencing fear about not having enough food to eat. A portion of these people head to food banks, which have seen overall visits rise in the past few years to nearly 900,000 visits each month. If the government thinks that food charity constitutes 'doing something' about food security, they need to think again.
Food banks started in Canada many years ago as what is often described as a "band-aid solution" to the growing issue of hunger. Food banks were supposed to be temporary, local groups that fed the poor, while the government developed the official resolution to this societal problem. Unfortunately, this resolution was never found, and food banks are now a staple in each corner of Canada. Believe me when I say that food banks do not want to be in business. As a provincial association, a large part of our focus is on advocating on behalf of food banks and the clients that we serve. There is a reason that people are hungry, and it is not because of a lack of food in this country.
September is hunger awareness month. We are not talking about the developing world where food shortages have long been a menace to vast parts of its populations, but in one of the wealthiest places on Earth. Regrettably, the long-term effects of food deprivation, especially at a young age, are not always readily understood or considered.
In their 2012 Report, Food Banks Canada stated that in March 2012 alone, almost 900,000 Canadians turned to food banks. Canada needs to tackle hunger directly, rather than continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole.
From personal attacks to commendable recommendations -- this is the legacy of a UN final report on the right to food in Canada. Prepared Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, following his mission to Canada last May, the report illustrates that current programs and policies are not enough to fend-off food insecurity felt by millions and calls for greater federal action.
It's a sad reality that as we gather with our families and friends this holiday season to share a meal, there are far too many who will go hungry. A healthy food system benefits our economy, health and communities. It enriches our quality of life. Let's put reducing hunger and a strong local sustainable food system at the top of our wish list for 2013.
Just as we are learning of the new pressures on the demand for food among the marginalized, news broke of the ironic reality that Canadians waste $27 billion worth of food each year. If we broaden the issue out to include the United States, things don't look any better. It appears as though North Americans waste food on a grand scale.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food will present his preliminary findings on food security in Canada on May 16 in Ottawa. It's my hope that this will put child hunger squarely on the political agenda in Canada. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but hunger is something that we increasingly see among the families that bring their children to the hospital for medical attention.