Just over 12 years ago, I questioned what my purpose in life was and what I could do to make a difference. Working in event management I was aware of the large amount of food left after each function. I was actually over-producing food myself, because the best way to judge if a party was successful was by the amount of leftovers! The industry I was a part of was throwing away ridiculous amounts of food on a daily basis.
So, when I started thinking about purpose, significance and skills, I figured I know that there’s food, because I’m creating it; I know that there’s people in need, because I’ve seen it (I’d volunteered over the years); and I thought if I connect good food and people in need, it could be a good thing.
I anticipated it would take about a month, but in reality it actually took a year! I knew from the start it was a long-term vision and commitment and it didn’t matter how long it would take – I knew that this was what I was going to do!
And so, in 2004 OzHarvest was born.
We have a simple and clear philosophy that drives everything we do – to nourish our country. Nourishment comes in many forms, it’s saving food from landfill and providing it to people in need, educating people to better utilise food, waste less and promote healthy eating and nurturing community togetherness through food.
I’m so proud of the growing fleet of bright yellow vans and the passionate team devoted to the task of collecting quality excess food from supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, delis, hotels, events, manufacturers and producers. We deliver to over 800 charities across the country to help feed those in need. This year, we hit our 50 million-meal milestone which equates to about 17,000 tonnes of food being diverted from landfill.
I’m always shocked by the statistic that 1 in 5 shopping bags in Australia goes in the bin, costing the average family over $1,000 every year. It’s a sad fact when there are still so many people going hungry every day, I think people underestimate that even in Australia 2.5 million people live below the poverty line. Many of the charities say they could take double the food to meet the demand, so that is a key challenge for us.
Addressing food waste at home is a priority and change needs to happen at consumer level. Educating people through events like Think.Eat.Save, where we partner with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to raise awareness about the alarming amount of food being wasted globally and nationally, are a step in the right direction.
Our next challenge is inspiring behavioural change, which we hope to do with our latest campaign #PledgeAPlate, where people are encouraged to make a lovely meal from their leftovers, share it on social media and tag a friend to do the same (whilst raising some much needed funds for OzHarvest!). I’m thinking ice-bucket challenge, but for food waste!
Whilst we have achieved so much, there is still a lot of work to be done.
People often ask me how I do it, so I look them in the eye and I say, ‘There’s no time like now. Get on with it and do something.’ Until you do it, you can’t actually explain the energy that fuels you. My advice is to find like-minded people to help you grow – the business and personally. If you see a need then seek to make a difference – and don’t give up! Passion is always contagious. I know this for a fact. I always say, OzHarvest is a magnet for fantastic people and to this day, we continue to attract magnificent people from all over the country.
Right from the start I built OzHarvest in the same way I would a business – as any good charity should. I think tapping into that business model early certainly gave us an edge. We’ve also worked hard on our branding and thanks to our pro-bono partner Frost* Collective, we stand out from the crowd. Now everyone knows when they see a bright yellow OzHarvest van that we’re on the road delivering goodness.
Innovation is key to staying relevant and top of mind. So through our education initiatives NEST and Nourish, engagement programs such as Cooking for a Cause and awareness campaigns such Think.Eat.Save and PledgeAPlate, we continue to attract interest, partners and volunteers.
People tend to describe the sector as not-for-profit, but I’ve never been a fan of that term. Why should we define ourselves in negative terms when we collectively make such a positive impact? OzHarvest is definitely a for-impact organisation!
I didn’t set out to start a charity or for-impact organisation, but through OzHarvest I have found my life purpose and that is a pretty extraordinary place to be.
My top 10 tips for reducing food waste at home
- Use your senses, not food labels
- Love your leftovers and make up delicious recipes with them
- Buy ugly food!
- Store food properly, use your freezer
- Support Australian growers
- Seek out producers who use rescued food
- Grow something
- Take home restaurant leftovers for another meal
- Shop locally
- Eat seasonally
Every $1 donated = 2 meals for people in need. Every $ counts. Please click here to donate to OzHarvest.