Edmonton’s meals waste put to the check in new Youth Council report

The Edmonton Youth Council urges the city, businesses and residents to do more to improve food security and accessibility in Edmonton.

The council outlined eight recommendations in a report released this week, entitled “Food Waste and Insecurity: A Youth Perspective,” which they hope will help the city alleviate the problems it sees.

Ricky Liu, chairman of the Edmonton City Youth Council, said it wanted to highlight the impact of food insecurity on communities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Food insecurity is really a much bigger problem than we ever imagined,” Liu said in an interview on Friday. “And it affects so many more young people than we used to think.”

In compiling the report, council members interviewed several nonprofits including the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op, WECAN Food Basket Society, Edmonton Food Bank and Food4Good.

For all of the listed organizations, the demand for food increased, the report shows.

Members researched global strategies and interviewed Edmontoners ages 13-23.

In its report, the city’s youth council suggests finding ways to educate businesses about donating or diverting excess groceries to local organizations.

The city could work with school authorities to find a way to improve food donations between restaurants and schools and expand breakfast programs.

They also suggest that the city could support community food markets and community refrigerators.

“We really need broad and all-encompassing collaboration between organizations, between governments and geographic locations to really tackle this problem,” said Liu.

‘A long way to go’

Count. Scott McKeen said he welcomed the ideas put together by the Youth Council and noted that food security was daunting.

“We still have a long way to go to bring efficiency and equity into our food systems.”

The recommendations may be complex in practice, he said, but believes the city can take steps to work with local hoteliers, restaurateurs and social institutions.

“There could be ways the city can leverage its capacity – 12,000 employees, huge purchasing power, and the like – to promote a better system to ensure we don’t have as much food waste in Edmonton.”

Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmontons Food Bank, said that with many people lost their jobs or underemployed during the pandemic, demand for food has increased.

As of July, 28,000 people were registered in the Framework Program, she said, compared to 17,000 in July 2020.

She said last year many people had access to a number of programs during the first part of the pandemic, including CERB, the Canadian emergency response service, Bencz said.

Pandemic Donations

The pandemic also brought out the generous side of the Edmontonians.

“Restaurants donated their perishable items to us – it was definitely something really new for us to see this amount of food coming out of the restaurants,” said Bencz.

The Tafel supports over 300 organizations across the city, has 70 depots across the city, and a delivery service they launched in 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, she noted.

Bencz said the youth council’s report could help remind people, individuals and businesses to be more aware of how much they are buying.

“Consumers can find out more, companies can always turn to the board if they have excess food” to find out what they can use and how.

The municipal council of the city council is expected to discuss the report in a meeting next Wednesday. (John Shypitka / CBC)

Ultimately, food security cannot be achieved without income security, she noted.

The Youth Council also hopes the city will explore long-term strategies to help local nonprofits expand their reach in tackling food waste and food insecurity.

The municipal council of the city council is expected to discuss the report in a meeting next Wednesday.

@natashariebe

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