According to the FAO, food security is a state in which “all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need” (FAO, 1983). This is a massive global issue, but also something we face on a more local level here at the University of Saskatchewan. People you know may in fact be food insecure. How can you help? Food security includes many different components, but two in particular that we as individuals can have an effect on: food sustainability and food waste. Enacting sustainable practices with your own foods at home and minimizing the food you waste can help to enforce greater food security for everyone. Statistics show total food waste across Canada is equivalent to 40% of what we produce as a nation annually and 50% of our national food waste coming from households, there is undoubtedly room for significant improvement. Not only does food waste negatively impact our national greenhouse gas emissions and economy (Food Waste in Canada), at an individual scale, wasting food can be attributed to throwing away money.
The information on this page was put together by a group of students taking Environmental Sciences 401 (ENVS 401): Sustainability in Action. Their group was tasked with creating a solution for a sustainability issue on campus or around the city of Saskatoon. The group chose to take a stand against food insecurity on campus by providing USASK students with the information needed for them to make more sustainable choices regarding their food.
Any cooking advice or recipe suggestions found on this page are the suggestions of students and not official endorsements of the University of Saskatchewan.
University Campus Resources
Edible Landscapes and Food MapOur group chose to address food insecurity on campus, focusing on how to get the fresh fruit and vegetables that exist on campus into student’s hands and mouths. Walking around campus, you can find many beautiful gardens and orchards – but did you know, many of these plants on campus produce edible fruits and vegetables? By putting fresh fruits and vegetables directly into student’s hands, we can lessen food insecurity on campus while also reducing the food waste that would normally occur if no one eats these fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, many of these edible orchards and gardens on campus are widely unknown to the students and staff. By viewing an interactive Google Map and accompanying website, students can learn where to locate fresh (and FREE) produce on campus and then learn what to do with all of this great fruit and veg after they’ve picked it.
University of Saskatchewan Students Union
Information on resources available from the USSU has been provided by the USSU below.
uFood is a customizable emergency food hamper program created and developed by the USSU. The goal of the program is to meet the unique dietary needs of students who are experiencing food insecurity. Their pantry is stocked with pasta, soup, baby items, and condiments that students can choose from to create an emergency hamper that suits their specific needs. By having the ability to customize the hamper, food waste will also be reduced.
This service is available exclusively to University of Saskatchewan students up to four times per semester. uFood hampers are provided at no cost to the students.
To order a uFood Hamper please visit, ussu.ca/ufood
2. Emergency Food Hampers
Emergency Food Hampers are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Forms are available at the USSU Main Office and the USSU Food Centre. When filling out the form, the student will need either a valid health card or passport. Each student is eligible to access the Food Bank either through the USSU or at the downtown depot once every 14 days. Forms are due each Wednesday by 3:00pm and the hampers are delivered the next day to the USSU Food Centre.
3. Fresh Market
The USSU Food Centre offers a fresh food market in Place Riel that runs Tuesday - Friday from 10:30am - 4:30pm. This program provides fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and dried goods at low prices. The goal of this program is to make healthy foods accessible to anyone who may not have access to a grocery store. It's also a convenient place to grab a snack when you are on the go!
4. CHEP Good Food Box
The Good Food Box provides top-quality, fresh, nutritious food at an affordable price. Orders are due every second Monday; deliveries are made the following Wednesday. Orders are available for pick-up at the USSU main office.
The University of Saskatchewan offers different clubs and organizations that promote food security and sustainability to students while they pursue their studies. Different colleges offer different programs that provide different experiences to students enrolled in their discipline. Off-campus clubs also are in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan and will be featured.
The University of Saskatchewan Horticulture Club can be found in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. Their goal is to educate club members on all aspects of horticulture through hands-on experiences and seminars. All students are welcome to join, and it is a student-led club.
USSU Food Centre
The USSU in collaboration with the Saskatoon Food Bank Center created the Food Centre program to tackle student hunger. This was in response to rising tuition rates and decreased student funding. All students who hold valid Saskatchewan Health Card and Student ID can access these services.
College of Agriculture and Bioresources Rooftop Garden
The College of Agriculture and Bioresources Rooftop Garden promotes sustainable agriculture practices that homeowners can practice. The rooftop garden supplies Culinary Services at the University of Saskatchewan and feeds hungry students at Louis’ Pub and restaurant operated by the USSU. Little to no waste is produced as food waste from Marquis Dining Centre enters a food waste dehydrator. The dehydrated waste is then transported to Grounds Department's on-campus composting facility and the compost is used to fertilize the AgBio Rooftop Garden, making this all a closed-loop food system.
The Culinary Services team has a commitment to reducing food waste and reducing a carbon footprint. It supports multiple sustainable initiatives to ensure they are following their goal of reducing waste and reducing environmental impacts. These sustainable initiatives are met through partnerships with on-campus and off-campus organizations. The full list of sustainable initiatives can be found on the Culinary Services Usask website.
Aboriginal Student Center (ASC)
Student development with the Aboriginal Student Center supports Inuit, First Nation, and Metis students. The ASC supports cultural programs that are held throughout the year. One of these programs highlights an important event in Aboriginal people’s culture, and that is sharing meals. This sharing meal has been adapted to a Soup and Bannock day. On Wednesdays, Soup and Bannock are offered free at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Center 12:00-1:30.
Food Renew is a local organization in Saskatoon founded by former Usask Alumni and is supported by culinary services at the U of S. Food Renew works with local food businesses in Saskatoon to save the food that they were originally throwing away. The rescued food is distributed to community groups across the city and, since March of 2018, 10,000 lbs of food have been distributed across community groups in Saskatoon.
Social media groups are an innovative way to interact with your community members about food security and preventing food waste. Groups like Out of Your Tree In Saskatoon provide their group members with tips and tricks on food sustainability. As well, Out of Your Tree in Saskatoon asks volunteers to gather excess fruit that homeowners do not need. This fruit is then distributed ⅓ left with the homeowner, ⅓ is donated, and ⅓ is kept by the volunteers.
Campus Stewardship Activities
Stewardship activities tackling food insecurity problems on campus have begun to take action. Grounds crew and managers have decided to include more perennial fruit-bearing plants in their grounds design plans. This replaces annual plants that do not produce fruit and die off within a year, with plants that produce fruit year after year. Any new building projects will be housed with a design of fruit-bearing perennial plants that will be open to the public to enjoy.
The University of Saskatchewan has a very complex composting system that tackles food waste and grounds waste. A dehydrator has been a unique addition to the U of S, this dehydrator dehydrates up to 650 lbs of food waste that is then incorporated into the compost system that the U of S Grounds Department manages. This composting initiative changes the minds of kitchen staff members, students, and U of S employees across campus to think about how much food they are wasting. The U of S Groundskeepers use this compost in the flowering beds, community gardens, and fruit-bearing plants across the campus.
Some more examples of food security stewardship across campus:
- Community Gardens across Campus (McEown, SENSSA, Horticulture Club, College of AgBio Rooftop Garden)
- USSU Fresh Food Market (low and affordable prices for food available to students and staff)
- USask Fruit Program
The campus Grounds crew is run and coordinated by Grounds Manager Gift Marufu. Gift Marufu is dedicated to establishing a new program involving more perennial fruit-bearing plants into landscaping designs. To uphold the University of Saskatchewan’s reputation and Gift Marufu’s work, we ask to be respectful toward the plant’s that are providing the public and students natures bountiful snacks. Another concern is maintaining the health and viability of the plants. Proper “picking” techniques are strongly recommended to ensure no damage is done to the branches that provide us with food.
Food Sustainability Tips and Tricks
Food Preservation Techniques
As students, we naturally operate on a tight budget and consequently a cheap diet. While fruits and vegetables can spoil relatively quickly, ramen 5 days a week can sometimes be just as unappetizing as a rotten tomato. However, there are some steps and practices that we can all adopt to improve the quality of the food we buy and reduce waste. Different food preservation techniques have been used throughout human history to store and keep foods fresh over long periods of time. A great way to mitigate food waste and to help yourself to be more food secure is to create a sort of “value-added” product from your perishable foods before they expire. Below are a few examples of simple things you can do at home to eat better and eat sustainably.
While some of these preservation techniques may require appliances you do not have access to, the YXE Library of Things hosts a wide selection of household items available to borrow.
Canning is a great way to store and preserve fruits, vegetables, meat or fish for months on end while retaining quality. With endless possibilities, once this technique is learned, you may find yourself exploring thousands of recipes for jams, jellies, salsas, sauces, pickling, etc. While the process of canning may be relatively simple to undertake, it's important to understand a few things about the foods you are canning (e.g. high acid foods vs. low acid foods) to ensure food safety and prevent and health risks.
The Government of Canada food safety site provides all the necessary precautions and tips here: Food Canada Home Canning Safety
For additional information on canning and recipes, Bernardin Home Canning is a great resource.
Dehydrating food is another technique to preserve food that is often more convenient and sometimes tastier than the original hydrated version. Dehydrating can be utilized to add fruit to trail mix or jerky meat and is also applicable to fish and vegetables. While dehydrating may involve more prep time, the process is generally easy. There are a variety of ways to go about dehydrating food utilizing either the sun, air (relative humidity), an oven or an electric dehydrator. With each method requiring varying costs and drying time, an oven or electric dehydrator are probably most popular.
For tips and tricks on dehydrating food, check out these links:
Probably the simplest and most common food preservation method of all, freezing food is a technique that most people probably don’t utilize to its full extent. Whether it’s buying marked down meat or cheese close to expiry from the supermarket or turning floppy vegetables into soup and storing away, there are several thrifty and sustainable ways to fill your freezer. Additionally, meal prepping in advance of finals or a busy week and freezing meal-sized portions is a smart way to ensure healthy eating and avoid take-out options.
For more information on how long to freeze food for best quality, take a look at Food Canada's Fridge and Freezer Storage guidelines.
For meal recipes that are great for freezing take a look at this list of freezer-friendly meals.
Have you ever wondered why some people have old, black bananas sitting in their freezer? This is actually a sign that some easy, and great tasting baking is just around the corner. Instead of throwing away your overripe bananas into the garbage or hopefully compost, consider freezing them! Bananas are actually sweeter when they are overripe, meaning you can use less sugar in whatever recipes you plan on using. Bananas can also help you lower your use of butter and oils in recipe because they are naturally very moist.
The best way to freeze bananas for baking is to slice them into individual pieces. This allows for easy thawing, and easy measuring of quantities. Take a look at this great guide for more details.
Some of the best Banana bread /muffin recipes can be found here:
Another resource for recipes is always friends or families who have top-secret recipes waiting to be passed on to you!
Do you ever find yourself feeling guilty over throwing out the tops and base of your celery stocks? Are your vegetables starting to go soft or to rot before you have a chance to eat them? You can reduce this waste by making homemade chicken, vegetable or beef broths which you can later use in other meals such as homemade soups. Rather than throwing out the part of vegetables you don’t want to eat, store a Ziplock bag in your freezer to collect your celery tops, onion peelings, and bones left from your steak or chicken dinners. Once the bag is full all you need is an oven or a crockpot to make your broth. The basic principle is that you let these vegetable scraps and bones cook in water for a few hours and by the end, you strain it off and you are left with a delicious homemade broth. The addition of salt and pepper is common but feel free to add whatever spices you desire. Below are some links to different broth recipes if you are not wanting to experiment on your own just yet.
Pies are a great way to make a “value-added” product from your seasonal fruits that can be preserved longer than the fruit itself. Bought a bag of apples and they are starting to go bad faster than you thought? Make a pie. Picked more saskatoon berries than you know what to do with? Make a pie. Pies fillings are quite simple to make but the crusts can be a bit tricky if you are making one from scratch. In my experience store-bought pie shells are relatively inexpensive and a perfectly fine substitute if you are not confident in your baking skills. Below are a few examples of pies you could make but feel free to do your own internet search to find a recipe that suits your specific needs.
- Pro Tip: When I make apple pie at home, I use maple syrup rather than sugar. This option is a little healthier and adds unique flavor.
- PS this link also has some Saskatoon berry historical facts