Justin Kulik is just 17 years old, but he's hellbent on making big changes to how Canadian supermarkets deal with food waste.
The Kelowna, B.C. teen will travel to Ottawa next week, bringing with him a petition signed by more than 100,000 people.
On World Food Day, Oct. 16, he'll hand over his petition to Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay, and ask that grocery stores in Canada be required to donate all usable, unsold food to charity, instead of throwing it away or destroying it.
"Initially I was looking at some information regarding the amount of food waste (in Canada) and I was just mind-boggled at the sheer amount of waste," Kulik told HuffPost Canada of his motivation to start the petition.
"After learning that $31 Billion of food is wasted every year in Canada, I was shocked. I couldn't wrap my mind around the extent of #FoodWaste, especially with four million Canadians experiencing food insecurity."#KidsTheseDays...are changing the world https://t.co/Y9mftmfMgb. pic.twitter.com/WKc6m9eEFK— Change.org Canada (@CdnChange) August 13, 2018
A 2014 study by Value Chain Management International Inc. (VCMI) found that Canadians waste about $31-billion dollars worth of food every year — and approximately 10 per cent of that waste comes from retail stores.
"When I saw that stat, at first I thought I was looking at a worldwide scale," said Kulik.
According to VCMI, the cost jumps up closer to the $100-billion mark, when considering how much energy, water, land, labour, infrastructure, transport, and machinery is needed to deal with wasted food, after the fact.
Watch how other Canadians are doing their part to combat food waste. Story continues after video.
After Kulik posted his petition in January, the campaign team at Change.org took notice and wanted to help Kulik get the word out.
"Justin's petition seemed to really connect with current affairs and seems to really resonate with Canadians," Julie Byrnes, a campaign expert with Change.org, told HuffPost Canada.
Byrnes points to food insecurity statistics in Canada as one reason why Kulik's petition may have received so many signatures.
According to PROOF, a food insecurity research organization at the University of Toronto, about one in eight households — or four million Canadians — deal with some degree of food insecurity.
Kulik says he's witnessed grocery store chains in his hometown throw out piles of food that are still fit for consumption.
"Perfectly edible produce, maybe with a bruise, gets thrown in dumpsters. Items hit a best-by date and are being destroyed because it's more efficient for the grocery store to not have to deal with it."
Byrnes says Kulik's petition is a promising start for possible policy change, pointing to a similar Change.org campaign that acted as a catalyst to France becoming the first-ever country to ban supermarkets from throwing away perfectly good food.
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After adopting the policy, France's food waste has dropped to a third of other developed countries.
Canada's Liberal government is currently working on a national food policy, and Kulik hopes his ideas will find a place in that strategy.
"I really believe Canada should be a world leader when it comes to combatting food waste," he said.
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