Fight food waste with your lo­cal Ozhar­vest

The or­gan­i­sa­tion and lo­cal busi­nesses tak­ing on food waste in Toowoomba

Style Magazine - - Contents - BY LEANDRI VAN STADEN

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

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