Love Food Not Waste

student volunteers at the uOttawa zero waste dining hall
By this point in the school year, most of us know how awesome the all-you-can-eat cafeteria is. When you’re starving after cramming for the midterm in the library, being able to relax and re-energize there feels like heaven. The cafeteria can boast that it is Zero Waste with regards to trash, bottles, plastic, metal etc. However, there is one huge culprit of waste that most of us don’t even think about: food waste. While dining trays were eliminated to help reduce over consumption, our dining hall still turns out to be an enormous source of wasted food.

the amount of food tossed out in the dining hall amounts to 1735 meals a day

To help raise awareness about this issue, the Office of Campus Sustainability and Food Services took on a mission to measure the average amount of food that is thrown out each day. Over a week long period, the average total of food tossed in the compost bins at the caf was a whopping 1,735 food servings per day! That means that every day, around 1147 pounds of avoidable food is simply composted and every 8-month school year approximately 126 tons of perfectly good food is wasted. That’s about the equivalent of the weight of a full grown blue whale!

There are many reasons for this massive source of waste but ultimately a huge factor is that many people simply take too much food and can’t manage to consume all of it. It’s pretty crazy to think about the fact that our cafeteria ends up producing so much waste however this problem of excessive food waste is not unique to uOttawa. In fact, Canada wide, food waste per year is the equivalent of 1,200 sandwiches per person per year.

infographic about the amount of food wasted on campus

Food waste not only comes in the form of people taking too much food on their plates or in the grocery carts but also in the forms of rejection by supermarkets before it even reaches the produce aisles. In fact, 30% of North America’s fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets each year because they aren’t considered attractive enough for consumers to buy. On a more local level it is interesting to know that a total of 40% of food produced in Canada is tossed away each year and $31 billion dollars’ worth of food is wasted in Canada each year. With growing movements of the 100-mile diet and eating local and organic, that stat is pretty shocking.

delicious sandwiches go in your stomach, not the waste bin


All these numbers boil down to one simple fact: our food waste in Canada and at our school is out of control. Ultimately food waste whether it’s from a buffet or a grocery store comes down to the fact that we think we need more food than we actually do. Everybody knows you’re not supposed to grocery shop when you’re hungry because your grocery cart seems to fill up with everything and anything. Too many of us however have hungry eyes and this leads to us having to throw out an excessive amount of food. If we were to choose to eat and buy food more responsibly, in a way that would lead to us not rejecting almost half the food that comes to us, it would lead to a more sustainable future. So next time you’re at the caf, be conscious about your choices and make decisions that reduce your own food waste. Slowly but surely we can make a difference together to turn the cafeteria into a true Zero Waste facility.

~ ava goerzen - guest blogger

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