Feature

What a waste of food

Waste

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Large-scale waste

While the amount of food wasted by householders is astounding, there are also vast quantities of top-notch food thrown away daily in the commercial world. But savvy food distributors and manufacturers are taking their leftovers to the streets – literally – with many charities who house and feed Australia’s homeless benefiting.

A significant quantity of potential commercial food waste is salvaged and redistributed to welfare agencies through initiatives such as OzHarvest. Founded in 2004 by Ronni Kahn, an events manager concerned about the scale of food waste in her industry, OzHarvest collects perishable meals and produce that would otherwise be discarded, delivering an estimated 180,000 meals per month via a fleet of 11 refrigerated vans across four Australian states.

Kahn talks a mile a minute and it’s soon evident why so many food outlets have succumbed to her persistence and charm. She says OzHarvest is the only organisation that collects from delis, takeaway shops, boardrooms, five-star hotels, supermarkets, produce markets, manufacturers and farmers. Woolworths and Aldi are big donors, and Kahn is keen to make Coles her next conquest. “On a daily basis, Coles throws away thousands of kilos of food, so we’re really keen to get them on board,” she says.

“Our model is so simple. We don’t warehouse, we collect food and deliver it direct to the end users. We might have 3,000 sandwiches from the Sydney Convention Centre or some fresh salmon from the Masterchef kitchens – or a few lasagnas from a small restaurant. The agencies don’t know what they are getting, they just take what they need.”

Honing in on home supplies

Sally Wise is a bestselling cookbook author from Tasmania whose latest cookbook, Leftover Makeovers, was inspired by her Depression-era grandmother, who hated to waste food. Wise, who has six children, combined her grandmother’s canny tricks with her own cooking expertise to come up with a book stuffed full of ideas for reusing the most common leftovers.

Stale bread becomes breadcrumbs, pudding or bruschettas, meat remainders are combined with vegetables or cheese to form a whole new dish and vegetables end up in soups, stews or mornays.

“Unlike our grandparents’ days, there is so much food available and it is presented so nicely that it’s quite hard, when you go to the supermarket, not to buy more than you need,” Wise says. She suggests a shopping list should start with a clear assessment of the food already in your house: “Let your meals for the week be driven by what you’ve already got.”

From planning your purchase, to shopping with a clear list, resisting impulse buys and bringing your own
bag, Wise agrees that planning is the key to adopting conscious consumerism – and reducing food waste in the home.

Top tips to reduce food waste:

❖ Plan your meals in advance before shopping, based on what you’ve already got.
❖ Always take a list when you shop – and stick to it.
❖ Bring your own shopping bags to reduce impulse buys.
❖ Store food safely in reusable airtight containers where possible.

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