Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand here with my colleague, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, in support of a bill to develop a national strategy to reduce food waste.
The numbers here are compelling. Canadians waste approximately 27 billion dollars' worth of food every year, food that is landfilled or composted. The true cost of that food waste might be more like $107 billion a year, if we include the labour costs, transportation, and capital investments in infrastructure and inventory.
Globally, and this is the terrible link, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year, yet 870 million go hungry every day. Just this morning a number of parliamentarians heard at breakfast from Laval University professor Jean Caron. He said one billion more people could be fed in this world if we went ahead and reduced food waste in the food chain by more than 50%, which he and a number of other activists say is absolute doable.
Right back in Canada, almost 2.5 million Canadians experience food insecurity, and over 800,000 visit food banks every month. In a country as wealthy as ours, this is shameful. Since 2008, the number of people turning to food banks has increased by over 25%. Close to 900,000 households in Canada are food insecure, and a few years ago the UN's special rapporteur harshly criticized the right to food in Canada under the Conservative government.
Connecting food waste with people in need is what people in Nanaimo—Ladysmith have done, and I am so proud of the success stories that are coming out of our riding.
Loaves and Fishes is a community food bank in Nanaimo. After many years of just working to try to get people fed who were in need, they had this brilliant innovation. They put the donations they were able to receive into refrigerator trucks and they now drive all around the riding. They might get a phone call from a shipping company that says they got stuck in a ferry line and now they cannot deliver their load of cheese or whatever under the conditions that were guaranteed before, but it is still good if they want to come and get it. They will go and get a whole pallet of food. They have processes around food safety that they have negotiated with the provincial and federal governments on a one-off basis, and they are able to assure their volunteers and their food bank clients that this food is good.
We have people in poverty in Nanaimo who are eating rack of lamb, and it is fantastic that this is a choice they can make and that their food bank offerings are not only the traditional canned goods. We have something like 600 local volunteers at Loaves and Fishes who are helping this non-profit sort and distribute food throughout the riding, and last year alone, the food recovery program of Loaves and Fishes saved 2.5 million dollars' worth of fresh food. It is fantastic.
That food goes to 30 different non-profits, who in turn distribute it to their own clients, and to schools as well for their lunch programs. It is helping over 8,000 people a month. This is due to the partnership with the grocery stores, with volunteers, and with shipping companies. It is very much a collaborative exercise and I wish that it was more common. We would love to find ways to get out of the way of the innovation of local organizations such as Loaves and Fishes and have this be a model that happens all over the country.
This is exactly what the MP for Berthier—Maskinongé is asking the government to strategize on, just these sorts of donations of unsold food. It does not cost donors anything. In fact, it can relieve the grocery stores of a great deal of cost around disposal, but better co-operation between food banks and retailers is needed. That would reduce food waste and would reduce food insecurity in our region.
Bill C-231 encourages this and it provides the tools to make it happen. The process that it proposes could well reassure non-profits that they will be supported if they do this important work safely.
Worldwide, food waste is a major problem, and that has been recognized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Union of Wholesale Markets.
Most famously, to date, France has led the charge on this. Just a year go, it was the first country to legislate against food waste. Part of that was amending the legal framework to remove the liability for donors. There is now a push to make that law European Union-wide.
In 1996, the United States adopted a similar kind of legislation where voluntary food donations were covered by legislation. That makes everybody volunteering in the field feel just a bit more secure and protected.
The need here is so great. In my province, British Columbia, more than 100,000 people were assisted by food banks last year, 32% of whom were children. The Ladysmith food bank and the Nanaimo Loaves & Fishes food bank said 3,600 individuals accessed their food banks last year. Of those, 31% were children.
In a more focused area of needs, the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses say that 75% of Canadian shelters rely upon food donations. This is both to meet the needs of women in shelters and also to support them and their children when they transition out of domestic violence shelters.
Another great story, in the same vein, is about a local non-profit called Nanaimo Foodshare. Through its community and school programs, it is teaching people around buying food in season, shopping locally, cooking from scratch, food management, how to compost, how to cut the amount of food wasted. It also has a paid gleaning coordinator who is funded through a provincial grant. That person connects people who have unharvested vegetables and fruit trees groaning with apples, organizes carpooling of volunteers to harvest that food, and then, again, redistributing them throughout the community.
In one season alone, Nanaimo Foodshare saved over 400,300 kilograms of fresh produce.
Again, people who are using food banks need to access fresh produce. It is good for local farmers; it is better for nutrition. We need to include all these innovative ideas into a national strategy to reduce food waste in Canada.
The tenets of Bill C-231 are to build that strategy against food waste, to assist consumers to reduce food waste, to facilitate the donation of food by the private sector, and to study the environmental impact of food waste. Those environmental impacts are significant. It is not just the land that is taken up by landfilling, but it is also the methane that is generated, which is a tremendous greenhouse gas amplifier and is something that really exacerbates climate change. It is an unnecessary use of land. It is bad for climate change. If we can keep food out of the landfill and redistribute it to people in need, that is better for everybody. Perfectly good food should not be landfilled when people go hungry.
We want the Canadian government to be a leader in this area and to implement tools so all stakeholders in the supply chain, from farmers to consumers, can reduce their food waste.
This can be done by removing barriers to donations from the private sector of goods that are imperfect, but goods that are welcomed by community groups and food banks. They are doing the front-line work of fighting insecurity and this national work can be done by supporting Bill C-231.
In my final moments, I want to celebrate, as my colleague before me just has, the work of some of our local farmers.
I am inspired every time I am at home by the Boulton family on Gabriola Island. Eric Boulton is, I believe, 85 years old. He is still driving the tractor. When our provincial government put rules in place that really impeded the ability of local farmers to slaughter meat and sell it in their own communities, the family hung on. It thought it was going to improve food safety, but in fact it really interfered with local food production. This tenacious farmer just hung on and got his slaughterhouse re-certified by the provincial government. He now sells beef to local restaurants. Our biggest grocery store, Village Food Market, and the McCollum family are very strong supporters of local produce. We can buy locally-raised beef right there.
The Boulton family is a great donor of its organic turkeys and other meats that it grows and slaughters at home on its huge farm. It donates that directly to charities, to partners like the People For a Healthy Community. Its annual Christmas dinner is a festive, beautiful time. It has all local produce, the best turkeys one will ever have. It is a great example of celebration at the community level, a great example of farmers' support.