Not long after moving to Whistler 21 years ago, I had the (un?)fortunate opportunity to dive into a pile of waste and help with a waste audit in Whistler. I was surprised at the amount of waste we found generally, but especially surprised at the amount of food that was in it – though I shouldn’t have been given the lack of facilities and programs back then.
Thankfully, a lot has changed on this front in the Sea to Sky, including two large-scale composting facilities, bans on organics going to the landfill, three very progressive food distribution organizations (aka food banks), many local zero waste initiatives, and ‘zero waste’ set as the long-term vision.
Despite the progress made, there is still work to do in our region and throughout BC. Food waste and food insecurity are still key challenges facing most BC communities, with landfilled organic waste accounting for 3.5%  of provincial greenhouse gas emissions, food waste accounting for 58%  of food produced, recoverable/edible food accounting for 32%  of food waste, and 12.5%  of people in BC reporting that they are food insecure.
Recently, our WCS team and local food and social service stakeholders and experts dove into addressing these intersecting priorities through the development of a Food Recovery Strategy and Action Plan (the Plan) for the Sea to Sky to maximize the recovery and distribution of surplus food, and to minimize food waste in the Sea to Sky region. While our research uncovered that most of the restaurants, grocers and hotels are minimizing their edible food waste, and key grocers donating to food banks already, the research and stakeholder engagement we conducted led to five key conclusions and corresponding strategies (included below), each with a set of actions for implementation.
- Secure additional recovered food donations to meet food bank/program needs.
- Remove barriers to accessing food programs.
- Work with remote communities on food recovery and redistribution as desired/requested.
- Reduce and divert food waste that cannot be donated to food banks/programs.
- Build overall capacity related to food waste and recovery.
To ensure the Plan achieves the intended outcomes and impact, we are now tackling some of the actions and supporting implementation by other organizations.
One of the actions aims to advance food recovery, food security, and climate action beyond the Sea to Sky by advocating that the Province include food waste and recovery in the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 as a way for BC communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Including it in the Roadmap should also mean BC communities get some support for these important initiatives.)
The food/organic waste omission from the CleanBC Roadmap was identified as a ‘missed turn’ in this article by Alex Boston from Renewable Cities.
And we couldn’t agree more, so we drafted a resolution that was endorsed by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Board of Directors on May 26th and submitted to UBCM for review. Hopefully it will be approved and included in the resolutions at the UBCM Convention in September. If you are an elected official in BC, please consider supporting this resolution.
Draft UBCM Resolution:
Food waste into CleanBC
Whereas climate change, food waste, food recovery and food insecurity are key intersecting challenges facing BC communities, with food waste contributing to both greenhouse gas emissions and food insecurity;
And whereas a better food recovery program could help reduce food insecurity, food waste, and GHG emissions;
And whereas the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, which sets direction for advancing climate action in BC, does not include food waste reduction and food recovery:
Therefore be it resolved that UBCM requests the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 be amended to include food waste reduction and recovery as, or into, one of the pathways.
If you would like to learn more about the Food Recovery Strategy and Action Plan or the draft resolution, please contact Shannon at sgordon[at]whistlercentre.ca.
- Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021ENV0071-002313
- Nikkel, L., Maguire, M., Gooch, M., Bucknell, D., LaPlain, D., Dent, B., Whitehead, P., Felfel, A. (2019). The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: Roadmap; Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International; Ontario, Canada.
- Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2017/2018. Household food insecurity was not measured for British Columbia in 2019.