Strengthening Canada’s Food System by Reducing Food Waste


  • Kerri Holland




Canada’s food system has evolved under pressure to constantly produce more and do so more efficiently. However, the drive for increased productivity has also led to rising levels of food loss and waste. In Canada, over half of our annual food supply is discarded. Wasted resources, economic costs, pollution and growing numbers of citizens who are food insecure underline the importance of tackling this critical public policy issue. The aim of this paper is to better understand food loss and waste in Canada’s food system and offer suggestions for policy action. 

Canada’s food system is interconnected and food loss and waste occur at every level of the supply chain. They are the result of multiple and cumulative activities and the economic, social and environmental impacts are considerable. Consumers and businesses fail to adequately measure and account for the costs of waste and this is a reflection of how our society values food. There has been a general disregard for food loss and waste in the pursuit of maximizing output/economic growth, meeting market demands and keeping food prices low. 

COVID-19’s impact has shed light on the strengths and vulnerabilities of Canada’s food system. Disruptions in our supply chains garnered media attention and food security concerns became top of mind for many Canadians. Diverting food can help alleviate food insecurity but it can also serve an important role in reducing food waste. However, there are key challenges to facilitating food rescue that have been highlighted and exacerbated over the last year, including lack of infrastructure and co-ordination, misconceptions about food safety and worries related to cost and liability. 

Reducing the problem of food loss and waste in Canada’s food system will require a unified strategy and committed leadership. Policy action should be directed at enhancing measurement, education, innovation and policy reform. Reducing avoidable loss and waste through policy measures that enable prevention and diversion will ultimately strengthen our food system by wasting fewer resources, finding new economic opportunities, preventing environmental damage and alleviating food insecurity.






Briefing Papers