Meet the man who is feeding the hungry with food destined for the dump

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Every year, Canadians throw out about $31 billion worth of food. That’s about 40 per cent of the amount we produce. Not only is that a huge waste of food, resources and energy, a lot of that is perfectly edible stuff that we have either decided we don’t want any more or don’t know how to use. Add that to the fact that there are people out there who can’t afford to buy enough food for their families and it looks like we’ve got a totally solvable problem if we were to just put in a little effort. 

Chef Jagger Gordon is committed to reducing food waste in Canada and making the “extra” available to those who are less fortunate. In 2014, he noted that hundreds of people could be fed with the perfectly edible food waste from a catering event and his crusade for reducing and reusing food was born. 

Gordon started the community food program, Feed it Forward, and the first “pay what you can” restaurant in Toronto, The Soup Bar. He’s been working across Canada for the past five years to promote changes in how businesses source and dispose of food as well as pushing for actual legislation to make more restaurants take responsibility and divert their “waste” to Canadians in need. 

You might not be a restaurant owner who can use their resources to feed the hungry, but there are things you can do in your own kitchen to waste less food. Canadians are somewhat spoiled at the grocery store with our uniform produce and fancy labels, but just because food isn’t waxy and perfect, doesn’t mean it’s not edible. In fact, a lot of food waste is throwing out food that just doesn’t look how we want it to. Don’t shy away from imperfect produce and use every part of the vegetable, even the pieces you might want to discard like kale and broccoli stalks or carrot leaves. Those “waste” items can be thrown in a crock pot with some broth for a delicious stock. 

When it comes to food going bad, North Americans are generally way pickier than they need to be. The best before and expiry dates on food account for a huge amount of food waste and a lot of that product hasn’t actually gone bad yet. The dates you see on food are more about marketing the product – it won’t look perfect after that date or they just want you to throw it out and buy more – than food safety. Use your own judgement on products that expire instead of throwing them away just because the date says so. There are online resources where you can learn how to test if something is bad or not. 

If you’re concerned about a food item going bad before you can eat it, the freezer is your best friend. Freezing something while it’s fresh will keep it close to that quality for weeks or even months. You can freeze meat, produce, herbs, baked goods and even some dairy products. Stop throwing stuff out and start throwing it in the freezer. You’ll save food waste and money. 

Chef Jagger stopped by The Social to share more food waste reduction tips and talk about other Canadian initiatives to divert food that would otherwise be thrown out to the people who could benefit from it. 

If you want to help change the laws on expired food in Canada, visit Chef Jagger's Change.org site.

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