Reducing food waste

Green Lifestyle

How and why we need to learn how to combat the $10 billion of food wasted in Australia each year.


Jill Dupleix and Jared Ingersoll, cooking and serving bowls of food to the masses at OzHarvest's THINK.EAT.SAVE food awareness day in Sydney.

Credit: Brendon D'Souza

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Yellow banners brightened the usually grey-slated pedestrian mall of Martin Place, as Sydney hosted its second THINK.EAT.SAVE food awareness day on July 21.

While Martin Place regularly plays host to festivals, performers and social justice campaigns, there was an almost shockingly huge turnout for an event centred solely around reducing food waste. There was a lot of quality food to draw the people in – and all of it had been saved from the rubbish bin.

As one of many THINK.EAT.SAVE events held across the nation, the United Nations Environment Program teamed up with OzHarvest – the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia – to transform rescued vegetables, grains and fruit into a delicious Surplus Vege Tagine with Rescued Pilaf Rice. For dessert, it was a Saved Apple Peach and Vanilla Stew with Brasserie Bread Crumble. 

Some of the biggest 'foodies' in the country volunteered at the event, cooking and serving bowlfuls of food to the masses. Just to name a few at the Sydney event, there was Maeve O’Meara from SBS Food Safari, chef Jared Ingersoll who focuses on the mantra 'local, seasonal and sustainable', TV chef Neil Perry, Anna Lisle from My Kitchen Rules, top Sydney chef Guillaume Brahimi, and famous food writers Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack.

The stalls from a range of different community organisations shared all manner of inspiring and thoughtful ideas about food waste.

The Youth Food Movement ran a play dough challenge where participants had just seconds to mould a fruit or vegetable. The results were never symmetrical or perfect, giving emphasis to the idea that if you can't make it prefect, neither can nature. The sad truth is that imperfect fruit and vegetables – more often than not – are thrown out by supermarkets and green grocers because people don't buy it. The lesson is to choose wonky veg!

Virgin Mobile contributed to the cause with garnishes of lemons, herbs and flavoured oils, and a unique tagging initiative. This campaign, specifically for social media users who share pictures of their food, invites the public to include the hashtag #mealforameal with their photos. For every tag, Virgin Mobile will donate a free meal to someone who needs it.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. Australians alone waste up to $10 billion of food each year.

In a panel discussion held at the Martin Place amphitheatre, founder and CEO of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn, said that “it wasn’t enough for people to put the blame on supermarkets and someone else... Each individual has to take responsibility for their actions and work out strategies to reduce wastage”.

Kahn was joined by James Viles from Biota Dining in Bowral, who shared his strategy for reducing wastage in the kitchen. He said, “you’ve got to be curious about food and do things to make other uses for it”. Viles described his experience with leftover organic lettuce, grown in Biota’s onsite kitchen-garden, which he says “weren’t pretty enough for a salad”. Rather than throwing them out, Viles and his team ferment the leaves and serve the pickle in the first course of their degustation menus.

The take home message for everyone can be summed up not only by the title 'think, eat, save', but also by the donation strategy of OzHarvest at the event. For every dollar collected from diners, OzHarest promised to deliver two meals to the needy. People who bought food at the event were given a fork with an image of a fruit or vegetable, to place in an ephemeral garden that had been created there. Large signs around the garden encouraged participants to 'Think Before You Throw', because it really is that simple.

The truth is, to reduce food waste, each one of us can make a difference. All we have to do is get a little creative, and ask ourselves: can this food have another use? Perhaps you can chop up leftover meat and add it to fried rice. Baked fish can easily be flaked and rolled into croquettes, or a thai curry one night could form a tasty pie for lunch the next day.

Learning how to reduce food waste properly not only satisfies your stomach and wallet, it's doing something really great for the environment too.

The writer of this article, Brendon D'Souza, is a former intern at Green Lifestyle, who has his own food blog,
Brendon The Smiling Chef. Brendon encourages us all to take action and get informed further, and to check out the top 10 ways to reduce your 'foodprint' on the THINK.EAT.SAVE website.