Food waste costs the Australian economy approximately $20 billion per year. As significant, approximately 7.3 million tonnes of quality food finds its way to landfill on a yearly basis. And while food waste happens along the entire spectrum of paddock to plate, a third of all food waste comes from our homes.
While we produce enough food to feed 60 million people, over five million Australians rely on food aid annually – approximately 815,000 on average per month pre-Covid-19. In 2019, Foodbank estimates were that 15% of Australians experiencing food insecurity were accessing food relief at least once a week. At the peak of the pandemic, this figured jumped to 31%. That figure has remained relatively constant and is mirrored on the Sunshine Coast
OzHarvest was formed in 2004 as a food rescue program to help feed those who are most vulnerable while at the same time addressing the issue of food wastage in Australia. Our food rescue model is simple but effective. Specifically, we rescue surplus quality food that might otherwise find its way to landfill (e.g. overstocked supplies, seconds, close to use by or best by dates, lack of ‘cosmetic appeal’, blemished produce, etc.) and redistribute that food to local charities, schools, churches, programs and community organisations. The donated food is then either converted to meals or provided as emergency relief hampers to vulnerable people in our community at no cost.
Because of Covid-19, OzHarvest nationally and locally has found itself in the unprecedented position of having insufficient supplies of donated food to address the increased demand for food from those who have become vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. In response, we have increasingly sought out donor support to allow us to purchase food to supplement ongoing donations and meet demand in our communities. Our food rescue operations now include significant effort to help agencies provide food relief to organisations helping to feed those most vulnerable as a result of Covid-19.
OZHARVEST SUNSHINE COAST
OzHarvest Sunshine Coast was launched in August 2014. From a modest base of three volunteers, four food donors and three local charities, there was been significant growth. OzHarvest Sunshine Coast currently partners with recipient agencies and food suppliers as far north as Gympie, down the coast into Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Food suppliers include local farmers markets, major supermarkets (including our national partner Woolworths), BP stations (national partner), independent fruit and vegetable markets, local producers/farmers, bakeries, butchers, schools (pantry drives) and one shopping centre (The Little Community Pantry at Noosa Civic).
With our yellow army of over 80 volunteers, we support approximately 40 recipient organisations including schools, charities, community organisations, programs and churches.
Since commencing operations, OzHarvest Sunshine Coast has collected and redistributed over 420,000 kg of food in the Sunshine Coast – the equivalent of about 1.26 million meals.
In addition to food rescue, OzHarvest has a robust community and education outreach program, advocating for and promoting local food security, food sustainability, healthy eating and elimination of food waste. Through our school outreach program, we engage students from kindy through year 12 and raise awareness about the value of food and how we can each fight food waste – at home and at school.
Using food as the medium – through cooking classes and demonstrations – we look to not only raise awareness, but to also help change attitudes and behaviours on how we view food and what we can do to reduce food waste. Unfortunately and due to Covid-19, these hands on cooking activities have been suspended. However, OzHarvest Sunshine Coast is currently exploring avenues for re-engaging in this program area for 2021.
 Foodbank Huger Report 2020: Food Insecurity in the Time of Covid-19.