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Learn How Your Grocery Shopping Habits Impact Food Security – SPUD.ca

Learn How Your Grocery Shopping Habits Impact Food Security – SPUD.ca

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LEARN HOW YOUR GROCERY HABITS IMPACT FOOD SECURITY

Food security was deemed a human right back in 1948 and today our planet is still able to produce enough food to feed our global population and yet for a third year in a row, world hunger has increased (1). In Canada, almost 10% of our population is food insecure, meaning they do not have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for a healthy lifestyle (2).

This news is disheartening, but the best response to bad news is to learn more about it and then, to take action.

Why Are People Food Insecure?

Why an individual or a family may be struggling to have three healthy meals a day is often a complex issue, however most variables that contribute to this reality can fit into these three overarching categories:

Personal Barriers: Even though someone may live in a wealthy community, they may not benefit from it due to their socioeconomic status, or to physical or mental barriers. For example, recent research showed that in Canada “food insecurity is three times higher among people with disabilities than the non-disabled population” (3).

Unstable or Unsupportive Environments: Globally, people often face food insecurity because the environments that they work in make it challenging to earn a living wage, which makes food unaffordable. This may be due to local violence that disrupts people’s ability to work or due to companies that underpay and overwork their employees.

Climate Change: With an increase in extreme weather due to human-caused climate change, farmers are challenged to produce the same amount of food per year while dealing with too much or too little rain, among other weather concerns. As a result, farmers are increasingly at risk for receiving less income per year and consumers may see a rise in food prices as the amount of food being produced decreases and becomes more costly.

How You Can Help

Buy from Certified B Corps: Like SPUD and Be Fresh, certified businesses are assessed by a third party organization and given points based on practices that support social and environmental sustainability. When you purchase a product or pay for a service by a B Corp company, you support a business model that balances profit with people and planet. Look out for this certification!

Look for Fair Trade Products: Fair trade certifications verify that a product has been made under safe working conditions, by workers that were paid a better wage, and that any trade between farmers and workers was under equal terms. By buying fair trade products, you are assuring that the hands that prepared your food can afford to put food on their own plates. Look out for this certification, or !

Shop Local and Organic: When you shop for food that is grown closer to home and made using sustainable practices, you support a food system that reduces our impact on our planet. In doing so, less of our dollar spent on food goes towards transportation costs and more is invested in the livelihoods of farmers working towards maintaining a healthy environment. On SPUD.ca, we list the distance your food travelled to get to our warehouse, and everything is sourced with purpose.

Support Food Aid Services: There are many great services in our local community that work towards supporting those that face food security challenges. There are many ways you can support these groups such as volunteering your time, financially supporting an organization, or donating food directly to them. At SPUD Vancouver, we partner with a few food aid services, like in Vancouver, Bissell Centre Food Bank in Edmonton, Leftovers in Calgary, and Rainbow Kitchen on Vancouver Island, who takes our surplus food and provides it to those in need. A quick google search can get you connected to organizations in your area!

Sources:

(1) “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/.

(2) “Household food insecurity in Canada statistics and graphics (2011 to 2012)”. Government of Canada. http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/

“International Decade of Action ‘WATER FOR LIFE 2005-2015′”. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/food_security.shtml

(3) Borowko, Whitney. “Food Insecurity Among Households with Working-Age Adults with Disabilities.” Simon Fraser University, 2006, pp. 1–118.

Michelle is SPUD’s Marketing and Sustainability Coordinator. She believes a sustainable food system is the key to creating a environmentally-friendly and just world. You can often find her in the mountains biking, hiking or skiing.

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Does motivation matter? – Food Security and Food Justice

Does motivation matter? – Food Security and Food Justice

This past July, PepsiCo released its latest Sustainability Report stating that it had made great strides towards its 2025 sustainability agenda entitled Performance with Purpose. While the agenda states three main categories for positive impact – products, planet, people – the press release identifies a fourth goal that may not be as altruistic as you would expect a sustainability agenda to be. PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO is quoted saying, “Today, it’s more important than ever before to advance sustainability and profitability at the same time, and I’m proud to say that’s what we’ve been doing for more than a decade”.

Profitability. For a company that says it wants to provide more nutritious products, reduce their environmental footprint, and support families, it seems a bit odd to make a point at the beginning of the press release about returning $6.5 billion to its shareholders in 2017. But that is the main purpose of companies, right? They need to make money for their shareholders. Now in some industries that may just be a fact of life. But when it comes to food (the ‘products’ portion of PepsiCo’s agenda), I’m a little uneasy about the idea of money, instead of people’s health, being the company’s priority. What kind of changes are (or are not) made to their products in order to make the company more money? Are these the best decisions for consumers?

The Traffic Light System

Food labels and packaging are one way we can see how the priority to make money leads to certain changes in food products. Packaging of foodstuffs can be designed in many different ways but overall it provides the user with information on the brand and purpose of the food, as well as nutritional details1. In the UK, the packaging and labelling of nutritional information takes place through the traffic light system. This involves using a colour coded system to indicate the relative health of a product based on the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar, and energy present in the product. The colours range from red to yellow to green, indicating a healthy, moderately healthy, and unhealthy amount of that nutrient, respectively.

This scheme was brought in as a result of a responsibility deal between the government and the food industry in order to tackle obesity and chronic diseases. The main hope was that consumers would change their behaviour, choosing to buy different products that appeared to be healthier (those with more green ‘lights’). If consumers were able to easily identify the healthier products then the labelling system would succeed in helping them choose the best food to improve their overall diet.

Producers’ Reactions

To no surprise, the food industry didn’t respond well when proposals for the traffic light system were first introduced in 2006. Companies didn’t like the idea of having to explicitly indicate on the front of their packaging whether a product was healthy or not. Too many red ‘lights’ could prevent consumers from choosing to buy certain products, lowering sales and the associated profits.

This is where the traffic light system presents a second function. In addition to encouraging consumer behaviour changes, the traffic light system also encourages company behaviour changes as they choose to refine their current products to be more healthy2/have more green ‘lights’. If companies have to label their products, they need to present food that is as healthy as possible – not to provide a healthier option for the sake of consumer health but to provide a product that will continue to sell well, making the company money.

Is this right?

So, should we accept that the health of some food is improved because companies want to make a profit? Is it appropriate that money is the incentive to make these improvements? In my ideal world, the answer would be no. Companies in the food industry wouldn’t be motivated by money, but instead motivated by the goal of better health for their customers. Unfortunately, many companies don’t make drastic changes to make their products healthier because eventually they could start to lose money. Due to the higher costs of healthier inputs (eg. replacing artificial dyes with natural colour sources), changes in production costs could be higher than the increase in sales they experience from offering a healthier option.

Now, if profits weren’t the bottom line then maybe some companies would look past this fact and take proactive steps to improve the health of their products…But I don’t believe this will become reality. We live in an economy driven by profit. It’s pretty unlikely that you could convince a company to voluntarily make significantly less money. Therefore, we may have to just take what we can get. So what if achieving a row of green dots on a product doesn’t come from pure intentions? Even if using the traffic light system benefits from the idea that companies will only change their products in the name of profit, shouldn’t we just be glad that changes are happening in the first place?

More information on PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose: http://www.pepsico.com/live/video/performance-with-purpose_ntvideo

References: 

Food waste and consumers’ responsibility – Food Security and Food Justice

Food waste and consumers’ responsibility – Food Security and Food Justice

Household food waste is a sustainability challenge and also a threat to food security. Wasting food is indeed a huge “luxury” in a world where resources are finite and one in every nine people is hungry. The greenhouse gases released by food waste decomposing in landfill and throughout of its production is costing the world $411 billion worth of damage. All of the resources that went into growing, producing, processing, and transporting that food are also wasted, causing further negative environmental impacts for reasons that could have been avoided.

The problem of household food waste seems to have a lot more to do with the developed world than its less developed counterparts. On average, consumers in higher-income countries waste a lot more of the food that they bought, as compared to those in developing countries[1][2][3] (see graphs below). Of course there are vast differences between people in the same country, but it is estimated that over 7.3 million tonnes of food was wasted in the UK in 2015, of which 60% was actually avoidable.

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“In the developed world, food is more abundant but it costs much less. In a sense people don’t value food for what it represents.”

– Dr. Rosa S. Rolle (FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific)

This may sound like blaming the consumer, In developing countries where people often have to spend a large share of their income e.g. 30-50% on food (see graph below), they don’t exactly have the option to waste their hard-earn food.

WHY, THEN, DO CONSUMERS WASTE SO MUCH FOOD?

Despite the often reported “anxieties” and “guilt”, food wasting has become an ordinary, necessary even, part of domestic food practices[4][5][6][7][8].

A study back in 2007 by WRAP on consumers’ attitudes revealed that only 13% of consumers were particularly concerned by food waste and would take efforts to avoid throwing food away, whilst others were either passively concerned or entirely “disconnected” from the issue and don’t even bother to take any action to reduce food waste. Among those bothered by food waste, environmental concern is secondary at best as people would rather value their own time and money[9]. They also tended to believe that since food waste is biodegradable, it is even less of an environment issue than packaging waste.

Such indifference attitude may continue to exist as long as consumers in richer countries can “simply afford to waste food”. The abundance of food, numerous choices of brand and relatively cheap food costs, together with supermarkets’ sale strategies make consumers buy more food than they actually need, only to waste them once they get home[11].

As the supply chain now separates the food production and preparation from the consumption stage, it creates a “disconnection from food”[12]. Certain countries such as the U.S. or Australia are considered to have a “weak” food culture, placing little value on food and thus wasting more food than those with deeper food cultures and greater appreciation for food[14][15]. Those with hands-on experience in the process of growing and turning plants or animals into food have a stronger connection to it than those who only come into contact with food at supermarket shelves or on their restaurant tables, and thus much less likely to waste such food[16]. Similarly, older generations wasted much less food than the rest of the population because they may have experienced austerity or food rationing during the war and thus developed a strong feeling against wasting food[17].

Some consumers cite food safety concern as the reason why they waste food[18][19][20]. They rely strictly on external standards such as “Best before” date labels on the packaging and discard food without double-checking the food’s actual appearance or smell, thinking that such food is no longer safe to eat[21]. Not only so, many consumers confuse between different date labels “Sell by”, “Use by”, and “Display until” and throw food away although they may still be “perfectly good” to eat[22][23][24][25][26]. However, why would they even have close-to-expiry food to waste if they didn’t buy too much? Wouldn’t it an issue of poor food planning and management skills rather than food safety concerns?

Also, the majority of respondents in a study reported that they just leave the unwanted food in a corner to decay and procrastinate until the food become “undeniably inedible” to throw them away[27]. Procrastination allows them to ease the feeling of anxiety and guilt associated with wasting food[28]. Accordingly, food “not being used in time” results in more than half of food waste in the UK.

For more examples of unwise food practices that lead to food waste, please see table below:

ANYTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT?

There are a number of solutions aimed to help consumers (especially in the developed world) become more responsible in reducing food waste:

Campaigns:

Education/Training/Public Awareness Raising Initiatives:

Or, if all else fails,  maybe the cockroaches can help us this time? =)

[3] Hodges, R.J., Buzby, J.C., Bennett, B. (2010). Postharvest losses and waste in developed and less developed countries: opportunities to improve resource use. Journal of Agricultural Science 149 (S1), 37-45

[4] Munro, R. (1995). The disposal of the meal. In Food Choices, ed. D. Marshall, 313–326.London: Blackie Academic Publishers

[5] Evans, D. (2012). Beyond the Throwaway Society: Ordinary Domestic Practice and a Sociological Approach to Household Food Waste. Sociology46(1), 41–56

[6] Stefan, V., van Herpen, E., Tudoran, A.A., Lähteenmäki, L., (2013). Avoiding food waste by Romanian consumers: the importance of planning and shopping routines. Food Quality and Preference 28 (1), 375–381.

[7] Quested, T.E., Marsh, E., Stunell, D., Parry, A.D. (2013). Spaghetti soup: the complex world of food waste behaviours. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 79, 43–51.

[8] Gregson, N., Metcalfe, A., Crewe, L., 2007. Identity, mobility, and the throwaway society. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(4), 682-700.

[9] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2013). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review, 60, 102-120.

[10] Stuart, T. (2009). Waste: uncovering the global food scandal. Penguin Books.

[11] Aschemann-Witzel, J., De Hooge, I., Amani, P., Bech-Larsen, T., & Oostindjer, M. (2015). Consumer-related food waste: causes and potential for action. Sustainability 7, 6457–6477.

[12] Dowler, E., Kneafsey, M., Cox, R. and Holloway, L. (2010). Doing Food Differently: Reconnecting Biological and Social Relationships through Care for Food. Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester.

[13] Kneafsey, M., Cox, R., Holloway, L., Dowler, E., Venn, L. and Tuomainen, H. (2009). Reconnecting consumers, Producers and Food. Exploring Alternatives. Oxford and New York: Berg.

[14] Bloom, J. (2010). American Wasteland, Da Capo Press: Cambridge, MA, USA

[15] Pollan, M. (2007). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin: London, England

[16] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[17] Quested, T. E., Marsh, E., Stunell, D., & Parry, A. D. (2013). Spaghetti soup: The complex world of food waste behaviours. Resources, Conservation and Recycling79, 43-51.

[18] Pearson, D., Minehan, M., Wakefield-Rann, R., 2013. Food waste in Australian households: why does it occur?, The Australasian-Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies, 3, 118–132.

[19] Kriflik, L. S., & Yeatman, H. (2005). Food scares and sustainability: a consumer perspective. Health, Risk & Society, 7(1), 11-24.

[20] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2012). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review60(2_suppl), 102-120.

[21] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[22] Kosa, K.M., Cates, S.C., Karns, S., Godwin, S.L., Chambers, D. (2007). Consumer knowledge and use of open dates: results of a web-based survey. Journal of Food Protection, 70 (5), 1213–1219

[23] Watson, M., & Meah, A. (2012). Food, waste and safety: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of domestic provisioning. The Sociological Review60(2_suppl), 102-120.

[24] Block, L.G., Keller, P.A., Vallen, B., Williamson, S., Birau, M.M., Grinstein, A., Haws, K.L., LaBarge, M.C., Lamberton, C., Moore, E.S. and Moscato, E.M. (2016). The squander sequence: understanding food waste at each stage of the consumer decision-making process. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing35(2), 292-304.

[25] Newsome, R., Balestrini, C.G., Baum, M.D., Corby, J., Fisher, W., Goodburn, K., Labuza, T.P., Prince, G., Thesmar, H.S. and Yiannas, F., 2014. Applications and perceptions of date labeling of food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 13(4), 745-769.

[26] Labuza, T.P. & Gunders, D. (2013) Food dating and food waste. Food Technology, 67(12), 108.

[27] Blichfeldt, B. S., Mikkelsen, M., & Gram, M. (2015). When it stops being food: the edibility, ideology, procrastination, objectification and internalization of household food waste. Food, Culture & Society18(1), 89-105.

[28] Evans, D. (2012). Binning, Gifting and Recovery: The Conduits of Disposal in Household Food Consumption. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(6): 1123–37.

[29] Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2007) Gleaning from Gluttony: an Australian youth subculture confronts the ethics of waste, Australian Geographer, 38(3), 279-296

[30] Wilson, D.C. (1996). Stick or carrot? The use of policy measures to move waste management up the hierarchy. Waste Management & Research, 14(14), 385–398.

[32] Graham-Rowe, E., Jessop, D.C., Sparks, P. (2015). Predicting household food waste reduction using an extended theory of planned behavior. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 101, 194–202.

[34] Stefan, V., van Herpen, E., Tudoran, A.A., Lähteenmäki, L., (2013). Avoiding food waste by Romanian consumers: the importance of planning and shopping routines. Food Quality and Preference 28(1), 375–381.

[35] Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, 110-123.

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week – Mangosuthu University of Technology

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week – Mangosuthu University of Technology

MUT Food security Programme kicks-off next week

MUT alumni, Nkululeko Mthembu
MUT alumni, Nkululeko Mthembu

In a bid to help students fight food insecurity on campus, Mangosuthu University of Technology has started a Food Security Programme to provide the much needed help for many of our needy students.

The pantry space has already been identified and cleared for use. It will be filled with food items and clothing which will be donated by alumni and anyone who is willing to lend a hand.

“As someone who understands where most of our students come from, I believe that this is the first step of giving our students the dignity of being a student by tackling food insecurity”, said Ayanda Blose, Schools Liaison Assistant, Marketing and Communications Department.

Blose also explained that this is part of MUT’s plan to help students in need so that they can fully focus on their studies and not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, which is a serious but overlooked problem in many institutions.

“Our students are our assets and we want them to perform to the best of their abilities”, said Blose. “We are looking for more people and business to partner with us.”

The first alumnus to hear of this programme, Nkululeko Mthembu, got on board and will be bringing supplies for the pantry next week.

In a bid to help students fight food insecurity on campus, Mangosuthu University of Technology has started a Food Security Programme to provide the much needed help for many of our needy students.

The pantry space has already been identified and cleared for use. It will be filled with food items and clothing which will be donated by alumni and anyone who is willing to lend a hand.

“As someone who understands where most of our students come from, I believe that this is the first step of giving our students the dignity of being a student by tackling food insecurity”, said Ayanda Blose, Schools Liaison Assistant, Marketing and Communications Department.

Blose also explained that this is part of MUT’s plan to help students in need so that they can fully focus on their studies and not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, which is a serious but overlooked problem in many institutions.

“Our students are our assets and we want them to perform to the best of their abilities”, said Blose. “We are looking for more people and business to partner with us.”

The first alumnus to hear of this programme, Nkululeko Mthembu, got on board and will be bringing supplies for the pantry next week.