By Thea Soutar, Youth Food Movement
Picture those times when you misguidedly purchase a giant tray of mangoes you know you can’t finish. In an effort to save them from becoming a messy heap, you try desperately to offload your produce into the hands of friends or colleagues – anyone who can ease the burden on your overloaded freezer.
Well, dealing with that kind of food glut, and making sure good food makes it to those who need it most, is exactly what Sydney’s food charity SecondBite does every day. With the noble aim of building a future where they needn’t exist, SecondBite redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste, and deliver it to Sydney residents in need.
SecondBite operates similarly to fellow food charity OzHarvest. They work directly with food businesses and on-the-ground service providers (think the Exodus Foundation, Mathew Talbot Hostel and others that provide support to the homeless or those in need of a helping hand). They also work in close partnership with Coles through Coles Community Food with SecondBite – a relationship that has seen the equivalent of over 8.6 million meals redistributed across Australia.
While they’ve only been in Sydney for around two years, SecondBite was founded down in Victoria in 2005, and has grown to be one of Australia’s best-recognised food charities.
To find out more about food waste (and why buying ‘wonky’ produce matters), I caught up with local NSW and ACT director Lynn Anderson, to see where we’re going wrong with our local food system:
Why does so much food waste get produced in Sydney?
There are lots of reasons for the unacceptable level of food waste in our system. These include gluts in supply, problems with distribution, and cosmetic product specifications. All of these factors contribute to a food system that is not only unsustainable, but which leaves more than 5 per cent of Australians unsure of where their next meal is coming from. SecondBite is working towards a future where organisations like ours no longer need to exist because all Australians are able to access the nutritious food needed for their health and wellbeing.
Do you think Australians realise how much food is wasted before it even reaches food retailers?
We certainly see awareness growing, but we are still wasting over $8 billion dollars’ worth of food every year. In 2011 a report on Australian-grown bananas suggested that cosmetic specifications were contributing to between 10 and 30 per cent of the crop being discarded on the farm. Throwing out good food wastes all the resources required in the growing, processing and storage of that food. And the landfill impact can be devastating to the environment. Urgent action is needed to address the negative social and environmental impacts of our current food system.
What can consumers do to help reduce food waste associated with ‘wonky’ or ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables?
The old adage of don’t judge a book by its cover is true! A wonky carrot tastes just as great as a straight one – and is just as good for you. Mother Nature didn’t intend everything to be uniform, so don’t be afraid to buy produce that looks as nature intended. The more consumers are prepared to do that, the more retailers will respond to the shift in buying habits. Be a conscious consumer and wherever possible purchase fresh, seasonable produce and don’t worry how it looks.
Content proudly written and supplied by Youth Food Movement.
SecondBite are City of Sydney grant recipients. The grant will be used to fund two programs – FreshNED, a dietician training course, and FreshMate, a nutrition program designed to develop the food independence of individuals who are at risk of, or who are experiencing food insecurity.