Costing the earth?

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Earlier this year, the United Nations set a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to halve per capita food waste at retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along with production and supply chains by 2030.

We’ve already seen countries taking the lead in this area, as France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, making them donate to charities and food banks instead. Italy passed a similar law a few months later and Denmark opened the first non-profit surplus food supermarket.

In Australia, we’re working towards the vision to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025, which will require major commitment and change from government, businesses, manufacturers, farmers, supermarkets, restaurants and households.

People are slowly coming to terms with how wasteful we are as a country. We produce enough food for 60 million, yet two million people still rely on food relief, according to the 2016 Foodbank Hunger Report, which is probably a widely underestimated fact.

I’m always shocked by the statistic that the contents of one in five shopping bags in Australia goes in the bin, costing the average family over $1000 every year (according to figures from the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority). It’s a sad fact when there are still so many people going hungry every day. We are working hard to ensure a regular supply of nutritious food to over 900 charity agencies, but many say they could take double the amount to meet demand.

Some food businesses still think that the law is a hurdle to being able to donate food, but this is not the case. OzHarvest was instrumental in changing legislation in 2005 to allow food donors to provide food to charitable causes without fear of liability under the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act. We now collect over 87 tonnes of quality surplus food each week from more than 2000 businesses, including supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, hotels, retailers, airports and retail food outlets.

Change needs to happen at a consumer level, so educating people through events like Think.Eat.Save – where we partner
with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to raise awareness about the alarming amount of food being wasted globally and nationally – are a step in the right direction.

There is a farming family in Queensland, who organise community days for members of the public to visit their farm and learn about the land, and all the work and toil that goes into producing a single carrot. If we can find more ways to connect people to the food we produce and understand the true value, they may not be so quick to waste it.

The more people that know and care about the issue, the more we can help to eliminate hunger and food waste, as well as save our environment. OzHarvest is always looking for new ways to inspire and educate people about food waste, food security and sustainability. Our education program NEST (Nutrition Education Sustenance Training), promotes nutrition education to vulnerable communities and our Nourish program provides hospitality training and mentoring for disadvantaged young people. Both are geared towards breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Everyone that works with OzHarvest is driven by the same purpose – to Nourish Our Country – and is 100 percent committed to making a difference. It’s a mammoth team effort, made up of devoted staff, passionate and like-minded partners and an every growing ‘yellow army’ of volunteers (we now have over 1500) who all live and breathe the message every day.

A sustainable future is only possible with the help of the long-term partnerships with companies that share our vision of creating a better world, led by purposeful action and meaningful engagement. We are lucky enough to be supported by the Goodman Foundation, Vittoria Coffee, Thyne Reid Foundation, Sargents Pies and Virgin Mobile. Woolworths, Aussie Home Loans, Glad and Unilever Food Solutions have joined the collective fight against food waste in the last year.

We are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and stay top of mind, if we are to continue to attract commercial and philanthropic support. There are so many great causes and charities to choose from, it’s often difficult for people to decidewho to support. The good news is that by donating to OzHarvest, for as little as $1 we provide two meals to people in need.

The global challenge is to create a sustainable food culture that can be shared by all, which needs all of us to play our part. Food is just too precious to waste, every time we throw something away, it’s literally costing us the earth.

Written by Tracey Bialek, who is head of operations at OzHarvest.

This article also appears in Issue 5 of CWS magazine. Get your free, obligation-free trial of the mag here.

Image copyright: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo

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