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Walmart donates $520,000 to food waste reduction efforts

Funding will be used to conduct research, facility assessments and to build consumer awareness

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Walmart has donated more than US$520,000 to help reduce food loss and waste in Canada.

The money will help fund a new joint-effort program from the not-for-profit Canadian Centre for Food Integrity and Provision Coalition, a food and beverage industry group focused on sustainability issues. The grant comes from the retailer’s philanthropic arm Walmart Foundation.

According to the United Nations, about one-third (1.3 billion tonnes) of food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. In Canada, it’s estimated about 40% of food is wasted, a loss valued at $31 billion. About half of that loss occurs with consumers and the other half along the supply chain, including 18% at the manufacturing level at a cost of nearly $6 billion.

READ: Waste management

In part, the US$520,049.40 donation will be used to fund research on consumer and manufacturer attitudes and perceptions about food loss and waste to better understand the size of the problem and how to implement food waste reduction strategies.

“We are trying to understand the potential risk to the brands,” said Cher Mereweather, executive director, Provision Coalition. “What is the risk to the food companies if they don’t recognize this as a priority for their business.”

The funding will also be used to conduct assessments in 50 food manufacturing facilities by environmental consultants Enviro-Stewards, while other manufacturers will be encouraged to use Provision Coalition’s Food Loss + Waste Toolkit 2.0.

The objective is to take a hard look at all aspects of the business and to identify every cost—from labour to energy to social—and come up with solutions to reduce those costs.

A food manufacturer could be diverting waste to animal feed, but does that have to happen at all? “It’s fantastic it isn’t going to landfill but what can we do to prevent it from having to be diverted in the first place,” said Mereweather.

“We’ll do the assessment, identify the opportunities, show them the value to the company and then help them achieve their goals.”

According to Provision Coalition, Campbell conducted such an assessment and implemented waste reduction measures that increased yield by 938 tonnes per year, valued at more than $700,000.

The final component of the funding will be to build awareness with new content added to the consumer information site BestFoodFacts.org, for example.

“We hope this grant, combined with additional grants we are making to other leading non-profits, will catalyze collective action to reduce food waste all along the food chain, from farm to fork,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, in a release.

The findings from the consumer trust research will be presented at the CCFI Public Trust Summit, Nov. 13 in Gatineau, Que.

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