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Study looks at food waste in London

As the London Food Bank launches its Spring Food Drive, a study based at Western University said the average household in London throws out $600 worth of food each year.

Researchers polled 1,300 households in London and discovered that residents threw out food an average of 4.77 times the previous week. The amount of food thrown out worked out to an average of just under six portions. In most cases, respondents told the researchers that they had bought or prepared more food than they were able to eat before it spoiled.

“London is a mid-sized city with an ‘average’ population,” said lead author and researcher Paul van der Werf, an environmental consultant and a project advisor with Western’s Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (HEAL Lab). “Whether it’s Hamilton, Saskatoon, Vancouver or somewhere else – I think you’d find similar results across the country.”

While green bins programs, like those in other cities but still a couple of years away in London, can keep food out of landfills, van der Werf said they don’t do much to address the wasting of food. He notes that the food that ends up in green bins is often food that could have been eaten.

van der Werf said the answer to the question of how to get people to waste less food might be an appeal to their wallets.

“When people hear ‘Canadians waste $31 billion per year in food,’ they can’t relate,” he said. “They’re not billionaires. But when I say to them, on average, households throw out $600 per year, that’s a lot of motivation.”

The study was co-authored by HEAL Lab director and professor Jason Gilliland and Brescia University College professor Jamie Seabrook of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences. It took place in co-operation with the City of London.