Researchers identify fruits and vegetables as food waste hotspot

GUELPH – Researchers with Guelph-Wellington’s Our Food Future initiative have identified fruits and vegetables as a food waste ‘hotspot’ and will now look for opportunities across the food system to reduce waste.

Our Food Future collaborators are exploring the most effective interventions to reduce food loss or find new value in the waste through living lab pilot projects.

The project received funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through the Green Municipal Fund to conduct phase two of the study which includes identifying data and knowledge gaps and leading additional research in those areas.

In the first phase of the food and food waste flow study, researchers from Dillon Consulting, Metabolic and University of Guelph analyzed more than 70 sets of data, and their analysis will guide future circular food system strategies and support businesses and organizations to reduce food waste.

According to a press release, the analysis shows that specific food categories, such as fruit losses before manufacturing and losses of cereals at the processing stage, warrant deeper investigation.

Storage and packaging also represent an important area of loss for fruits and vegetables, likely due to their vulnerability to damage and shorter shelf life. Focusing on these hotspots will provide more significant overall impact than other points of intervention in the supply chain, the release states.

“This study and data gives us a better understanding of where to invest our resources to mitigate food losses and sets a baseline for us to measure the success of some of the interventions we’ll explore next to reduce these losses,” Guelph’s manager of solid waste services Cameron Walsh states in the release.

The research also reinforced the importance of further developing climate-friendly farming initiatives.

Several of these efforts, such as manure and nutrient management and regenerative farming techniques, are already incentivized through the municipally-funded Rural Water Quality Program.

Pilot projects

Our Food Future is also running pilot projects in this area it expects will bring further understanding and circularity to local farming.

“There are a number of benefits we hope to see coming out of this work including a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) production and material sent to landfill, and helping local producers measure their sustainable farming practices,” states Walsh.

Our Food Future’s goal is to increase Guelph-Wellington’s circular economic benefit by 50 per cent by unlocking the value of waste.

By reimagining the value of food waste and creatively using that food for another purpose, the community will divert waste from landfill, and reduce its greenhouse gas production.

The food waste flow study is a first of its kind in Canada and sets the stage for other regions to also more accurately understand where food waste occurs.

“One of our goals with this project was to establish a methodology that could be shared with other regions and replicated,” says executive director of the Smart Cities Office in Guelph Barbara Swartzentruber. Her office oversees the Our Food Future initiative.

The full study report is available on