Bake it, broth it, buy what you need

A guest blog post from one of our student research assistants

Hello! My name is Lydia Ng and I am a third year undergraduate student studying a Neuroscience and Nutritional Sciences double major at the University of Toronto. I am originally from Vancouver, British Columbia and in Vancouver, composting is mandatory by law  for everyone. When I arrived in Toronto, I was surprised the lack of food waste prevention practice and food waste knowledge from my peers.

During my second year, I became involved with a start-up company, Feedback, who help reduce food waste from restaurants by offering dynamic pricing of their menu items during off-peak hours. It was great that I got to be part of something to help with the food waste problem in Canada. The importance and value of food has always been a major teaching growing up, so when I heard about the open research position for the Food Systems Lab, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. I was excited to be part of a team that was dedicated in food waste prevention within the community. As a research assistant in the Food System Lab, I helps the research team with tasks, such as data entry, workshop planning, and data analysis. I was also very interested in being part of the interactions with the community to hear about their own food waste prevention strategies.

One of my favourite recipes to prevent food waste is to make a broth using vegetable scraps or meat bones. I love how simple it is to make, and it helps me used parts of the food I would otherwise not normally eat. I am also a huge baker, so whenever I have some very ripe fruit, like bananas or apples, I would use them in my baking. A few examples include, banana bread, apple strudels or tarts, scones, or muffins.

My top three tips for reducing or preventing food waste include:

  1. Do Not Always Buy in Bulk. Everytime I go grocery shopping, I notice the retailers advertise specials like buy 4 for $5, or buy 2 get one free. Often as consumers get trapped into the idea that buy more is cheaper, however it not always the case, especially if food gets wasted in the end. Sometimes the 2 for $4 is a trick for you to buy more because in the fine print, it may say that the item is still $2 if you only buy one.
  2. Portion Control. Try to cook enough food for only that meal, maybe a bit extra for leftovers for the next day. If you are someone that tends to forget about leftovers or prefers not to eat the same meal multiple times, it is better to only cook enough food for that one particular meal. Sometimes less is better.
  3. Purchase Versatile Ingredients. For example, carrots, onion, and celery can be used for soups, pasta, or fried rice. When I want to try a new recipe, sometimes it requires an item that I normally do not purchase. During those times, I try to substitute those items with items that I already have on hand or ones I know I can use for other meals.


A New Grant and A New Toolkit

Food Systems Lab has been quietly working this spring on some new initiatives and we are thrilled to finally be able to share them with the world!

New Frontiers

Assistant Professor Tammara Soma (PI) has been awarded the SSHRC New Frontiers Grant for Our Home, Our Food, Our Resilience: A Citizen Science Approach to Food Asset Mapping and New Frontiers in Ecological Heritage Planning in Canada. This two-year project will involve extensive collaboration with researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia spanning fields of expertise including Ethnobiology and Archaeology, Forestry, Indigenous Governance, Biology, Information and Arts Technology, Social Work and Geography.

Food asset mapping is an emerging tool in planning and has been used to document available food infrastructures in cities for the purpose of achieving food security. However, food asset mapping has not included ecological and cultural assets important to food system resiliency. Further, what are considered “assets” may not reflect the lived experiences of marginalized communities. This study will apply a “citizen science” led community food asset mapping in three cities: Port Alberni, Terrace and Vancouver. The project includes a photovoice methodology representing diverse communities including Indigenous, racialized, and low-income communities.

Food Matters Action Kit

Looking for learning materials and project to tackle the issue of food waste? Look no further!

Food Systems Lab is delighted to announce the launch of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Food Matters Action Kit with over 2 dozen activities to inspire youth to make a difference. With support from colleagues in the United States and Mexico, the Food Systems Lab team had the opportunity to contribute to the development of this youth action kit. We hope to spark a collective youth movement to prevent, reduce, recover food loss and waste in North American and beyond. Spread the word and join the youth movement!