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How much in food do Canadians waste a year? Think billions

While you gorge yourself this weekend on turkey with all the trimmings, it may be a good time to think about how much of it all will wind up in the trash. Because we throw away a disgusting amount of perfectly edible food – billions worth each year, in fact, according to a new study.

We waste approximately 40 per cent of our food, or $27-billion worth, according to the Value Chain Management Centre, an independent think tank based in Guelph, Ont. And just over half (51 per cent) of that gets tossed from households.

Keep in mind, we're not talking about the strawberries that have been sitting in your crisper so long they've got grey fuzz on them, or those tomatoes with the gross green splotches that stink. The report is talking about edible food that simply gets chucked. Why? Partly because we load our plates with giant portions we can never finish, partly because we throw out food based on best-before labels, even if we're not reading them properly or the food is still good. But mostly we toss food because, unlike so many other places on earth, food is cheap to us.

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"A lot of food waste is an outcome of behaviour that is shaped by attitudes that really themselves are based on perceptions of abundance and affluence," says Martin Gooch, director of the Value Chain Management Centre.

In other words, we think food is cheap and it'll be easier to buy more of it, so let's just scrape our plates in to the garbage and call it a day.

If this study sounds familiar, it's because it found the same staggering figures of food waste as its earlier iteration, from 2010.

Mr. Gooch said he isn't all that surprised that we continue to waste so much food. "There's been no overarching program to encourage changes in attitude and behaviour," he says.

He would like to see a program along the lines of Britains's waste and resources action program, or WRAP, a not-for-profit organization that recently launched an anti-waste campaign called Love Food, Hate Waste.

While we wait for such a program, this is as good a time of year as any to reflect on the food we waste and what better purposes we could put it to.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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