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Canadians adopt more food-saving habits: Survey

While consumers are buying more food, the vast majority want to reduce food waste

The pandemic has turned many Canadians into meal- and shopping-trip planners, and that may be helping to curb food waste.

A recent survey by the National Zero Waste Council found that since the introduction of quarantine and physical distancing measures, 63% of Canadians are shopping less often and buying more food per trip than before. Even though they’re stocking up, nearly one quarter (24%) said they’re throwing away or composting less uneaten food. Around 50% are staying about the same and 14% believe they’re wasting more food than before the pandemic.

However, wanting to reduce food waste is near unanimous: 94% of Canadians are motivated to reduce their household’s avoidable food waste, which is “the most compelling finding” from the research, says Joanne Gauci, senior policy advisor at regional federation Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council.

“Certainly at the beginning of COVID-19, when people were shopping more often and buying less food, perhaps that made them more aware of just how much food was in the home and how they can make sure to be wasting less of it,” says Gauci. “So, I see it as a strong indication that Canadians are really concerned about food waste and are trying their best to think about different ways to reduce it.”

In terms of how they’re reducing waste, the survey found that 46% of respondents overall are checking what food is in the house before shopping; 33% are making shopping lists; and 32% are making a meal plan for the week ahead more often. In addition, 42% are freezing food to extend its shelf life; 38% are considering the best way to store perishable food; and 41% are thinking creatively about how to use up leftovers more often.

“Grocery retailers are uniquely positioned to help their customers get the most of the food that they buy, whether that be through their website or information that’s available in store,” says Gauci. “The fact that Canadians are looking for this information provides an opportunity for grocery retailers to act as a resource and a guide for Canadians moving forward.”

The online survey of 1,200 Canadians, conducted by the Mustel Group between June 16 and June 24, is part of National Zero Waste Council’s “Love Food Hate Waste Canada” campaign, which includes recipes, guides and tips for reducing food waste.

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