This week we wanted to highlight a very important charity in our community, Oz Harvest.
If you haven't heard of them, chances are you have seen their yellow van cruising around town.
OzHarvest is the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia collecting quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivering it, direct and free of charge, to 800 charities providing much needed assistance to vulnerable men, women and children across Australia.*
OzHarvest is the only food rescue organisation in Australia collecting surplus food from all types of food providers including fruit and vegetable markets, supermarkets, hotels, wholesalers, farmers, stadiums, corporate events, catering companies, shopping centres, delis, cafes, restaurants, film and TV shoots and boardrooms.*
OzHarvest was founded in November 2004 by Ronni Kahn. In 2005, Kahn together with pro-bono lawyers lobbied the state governments to amend legislation to allow potential food donors to donate surplus food to charitable organisations.*
The Civil Liabilities Amendment Act was passed in NSW in 2005 with ACT, SA and QLD following. This ensured surplus food could be donated to charitable causes without fear of liability.*
Which brings us to our local chapter on the Gold Coast. Spear-headed by Lee Danahay who worked tirelessly for 18 months for free and from her dining room table to get the Gold Coast chapter up and running.
I had met Lee at a work event a few months back and it was only then that I heard of food rescue. Anyone with the smallest inkling of common sense can hear what Lee and her team are doing and know its an amazing thing, but for me it wasn't until I spent a day in the Oz Harvest van that I realised how huge of a problem food waste is, and what a spectacular job they are doing to help lessen this.
They day started at 7:30 I met the driver Pasquale at his house and we promptly loaded up.
He showed me an app Critter; it’s what they use to know where to go and to keep track of how much food was collected and donated to each charity.
My job was to call each location and make sure they had food for us to pick up. Once we had confirmed our locations we were off.
We mostly hit Aldi Stores this day. We pulled up to the loading dock, rang the bell and went inside to collect the food.
On our first stop we rescued about 80kg of food. I dont know if you know what that looks like, but it’s more than I buy in a month and probably enough to feed a large family several times over.
If we hadn't picked up the food it would have been thrown in the trash. Food retailers have to adhere to a sell by date. Although the food my be perfectly edible, if it’s hit the date, it’s got to go.
We spent all morning driving from Aldi to Aldi all along the coast. Some had lots for us, some had only a box or two.
Even if it’s only a box, Oz Harvest does their best to pick it up. Every little bit counts.
Speaking of counting, Oz Harvest has rescued and delivered almost 46 MILLION meals in the few short years they have been operating.
Think about that, 46 Million meals, 1 country, a few years, a few stores.
It’s estimated that on average there is 1.3 BILLION tonnes of food that gets wasted or lost a year globally. Thinking about that and thinking about what that actually looks like makes me sick. We have become a wasteful society. How there are still starving people in the world but we are wasting a billion tonnes of food is mind boggling.
Perhaps its a case of miseducation... Until just this week I was guilty of food waste ignorance too.
In total we donated food to 6 charities that day. Although there are more, with the van running 7 days a week and only a few staff and volunteers, they have to space out when they donate. They also give such a hefty amount of food to the charities that each charity needs time to distribute the meals.
The people at the charities were incredibly grateful for the food. We were greeted by smiling faces wherever we went. It was obvious that Pasquale was a was a very liked and welcomed guy among the local charities. Delivering rescued food full time, he seemed to have a pretty good idea about what each charity would be needing, and did his best to fulfil those needs.
Late in the afternoon and two coffee’s later, our labor of love had come to an end for the day.
Spending time volunteering with Oz Harvest has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. The shocking realisation of how much our society and the world wastes has forever changed my outlook on food and grocery shopping.
I am lucky to not have ever gone hungry, however there are many people in the world and even locally in our community that have not known my good fortune.
To think that while most of us are tucked away safe and full in our beds at night, there are people going hungry and worrying about where they are going to get their next meal, is a sad thought. The sliver lining is that there is good food available for them to eat, it just needs to be saved.
With our help, OZ Harvest can keep rescuing food for our community.
For ever $1 you donate, Oz Harvest can rescue 2 meals.
Let me put it like this, for that 1 coffee you are getting, Oz Harvest can insure that at least 8 people are fed for the night.
Give a little people!
If you would like to donate, or read more about Oz Harvest, please click HERE.
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By Marleigh Kelly