Fight food waste with your local Ozharvest
The organisation and local businesses taking on food waste in Toowoomba
When was the last time you went to bed hungry?
For most Australians, the answer to that question is ‘never’.
But, for about 3.6 million Australians receiving food relief each year, going to bed hungry is a grim reality and happens too often.
Despite this, the Australian people waste an estimated five million tonnes of food each year — enough to fill 9000 Olympic–sized swimming pools — more than half of which, comes from households. Let that sink in for a second. Households in Australia waste more food than all the farms, manufacturers, supermarkets and the hospitality industry combined.
Think about the bag of zucchinis you bought last week, already wilting in your vegetable drawer.
Will you eat them before they go bad, or will you throw them out?
Would you have it in you to throw a left–over pizza in the trash, if a starving child could see you do it?
Then why are we so quick to send food to landfill, knowing simple changes in the way we shop, cook, and store food, could prevent that from becoming necessary?
Reducing food waste is a fight for every citizen of our planet, whether the fight comes from personal experience, a love for the environment, or just a general sense of doing the right thing.
Each one of us should be more aware of the impact of our choices on the world and those around us. L eading the charge on the war against food waste in Australia, is Ozharvest.
It is a food rescue organisation with the sole purpose of rescuing good food (which would otherwise go to waste) and delivering it to people in need.
Founded in Sydney by Ronni Kahn (pictured, page 11) 14 years ago, Ozharvest now operates nationally and has delivered more than 96 million meals and saved 33,000 tonnes of food from landfill.
The organisation collects food from more than 3500 food donors, including supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, hotels, retailers, airports and food outlets.
In Toowoomba, there are 15 businesses and organisations that donate their quality surplus food to Ozharvest — food then distributed to 18 charities, including Basement, Toowoomba Flexi School, St Luke’s, Lifeline, Toowoomba Food Assist, and others.
“It’s extremely rewarding to provide charities and agencies with a high–quality, free food relief service,” said Ozharvest Queensland state manager, Amy Cobb.
Ozharvest has been delivering meals to vulnerable families and individuals in Toowoomba since late–2016 and currently delivers more than 13,000 meals a month.
The goal is eventually delivering 500,000 meals a year to our community’s most vulnerable.
Ozharvest keeps up a regular supply of quality, nutritious food, including fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, with the help of their fleet of refrigerated vehicles.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday, Darren (our food rescue driver) darts around town in our bright yellow refrigerated truck — if you see him, give him a wave,” Amy said.
Darren regularly collects more than 500 kilograms of quality surplus food a day, which is then delivered to Ozharvest’s charity partners free of charge.
In the food rescue business, speed is everything — Amy said Ozharvest is able to rescue fresh food and have it delivered the same evening, or the next day.
The rescue drivers are trained in food safety and the Ozharvest team works with donors to ensure the donation process is efficient and safe.
According to Amy, when commercial operators donate food free and in good faith (and within its use–by date), they are protected from liability by law.
“In fact, our CEO Ronni Kahn and a team of pro bono lawyers lobbied to get the legislation changed in 2005, to make it possible for commercial operators to donate food without fear of liability,” she said.
Ozharvest does not redistribute high–risk foods like shellfish, anything containing alcohol, or food prepared by an uncertified person.
“If it’s not fit for human consumption, we do not collect it.”
According to Amy, the level of food insecurity in Toowoomba is high and the Ozharvest wait list is growing, as more charities ask for food relief.
But, she said, the Ozharvest team is buoyed by the enthusiasm, passion and practical attitude of those they call upon and are proud to be of support to the local community.
Toowoomba residents can help fund the Ozharvest mission to fight food waste, by donating online at www.ozharvest.org or over the phone on (07) 3708 1380. Every $1 donated, allows Ozharvest to deliver two meals to people in need. Local businesses can also get involved by providing a cold room and shed for storage, as well as funding to expand the Ozharvest Toowoomba delivery run from two days to five days a week. At the very least, we can all buy only what we need, cook just enough to eat, store the left–overs for tomorrow, and support organisations like Ozharvest by fighting the (good) food fight.
Australia is a huge country and hunger is a real issue, especially in regional areas.” — AMY COBB