EatFirst interviews Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest
Founded in 2004, OzHarvest collects surplus food from over 2,000 commercial outlets, including restaurants, cafes, caterers, supermarkets and hotels, and delivers them to a network of over 800 charitable organisations throughout Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle, the Gold Coast, and regional centres accessed via their REAP service. On a mission to provide much needed assistance to Australians in need, founder Ronni Kahn and a team of pro-bono lawyers successfully had the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act passed in 2005, allowing more commercial outlets to provide their surplus food to OzHarvest without fear of liability; a tremendous win for a worthy cause.
We were very privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with Ronni recently about OzHarvest’s mission, their events, and how businesses and individuals can contribute to reducing food wastage.
EF: We hear lots of saddening statistics about how much food Australian households waste each year. Have you guys got any statistics on how much corporate offices waste or throw away each year? We're thinking of things like uneaten and thrown out catering, employees throwing away their leftover lunches, spoiled food left in the office fridge, communal office snacks that go uneaten etc.
RK: In Australia, up to 4 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. We know from research that households are the biggest offenders, with 1 in 5 shopping bags ending up in the bin, but workplaces are guilty too. Reducing food waste is something everyone can do, whether at home or at work.
EF: Do you think there has been a rise or a decline in the amount of food wasted by businesses in Australia. If there has been a change, what has driven this change? Has it been influenced by changes in food manufacturing processes, or a change in mentalities, or both?
RK: I think there has definitely been an increase in awareness, through initiatives like Think.Eat.Save where OzHarvest partners with the United Nations Environment Programme each year to bring attention to the alarming amount of food wasted globally and locally. Major supermarkets are now changing their policies and helping to reduce food waste through initiatives like Woolworths’ Odd Bunch range, which promotes embracing imperfect fruit and veg to support local farmers. This helps drive awareness and inspires behavioural change.
OI: Are there any laws or legislation that is still in place in Australia that you would like to see changed or abolished, as it could be holding businesses back from implementing more food-friendly policies?
RK: In 2005, OzHarvest lobbied to have the Civil Liability Act amended to allow good food to be given away without fear of liability to the food donor. We have made it easy and safe to donate good quality surplus food. We can collect it at no cost to the food donor and deliver it for free to charitable organisations that feed hungry people.
EF: On an individual level, wasting food is probably largely a mindless thing that many of us do without even thinking. We throw some leftovers in the bin and suddenly they're not our problem anymore. What are some of the easiest, mindful behaviours office employees can adopt to personally reduce the amount of food they waste while at work?
RK: There are many ways to change your own food waste behaviour at home. Here are 3 to get you started:
- Love and reuse the leftovers in your fridge – get creative with ingredients that you would normally have thrown away (the UrbanHarvest Cookbook can give you some great recipe ideas!)
- Get involved with our new #PledgeAPlate campaign by sharing a dish made from leftovers on social media, nominate a friend and donate to OzHarvest
- Support local growers and Australian farmers and buy the wonky and imperfect fruit and veg, Woolworths ‘Odd Bunch’ range is a great example
We can’t change the world overnight, but starting at home, we can slowly make a difference when it comes to food waste.
EF: Then at a company level, what are some of the policies and procedures that higher management can implement to help their entire company or building waste less food overall?
RK: There are many things that companies can do to reduce their waste. If they have a corporate kitchen, then food can be rescued by OzHarvest. Encouraging green bins for organic waste and being mindful about over ordering can help reduce food waste from meetings and corporate functions.
EF: What are some of the ways that businesses (other than food or catering-based businesses) can get involved with supporting OzHarvest? Bake-offs, employee fundraising drives, CEO events, etc?
RK: OzHarvest’s Cooking for a Cause is a unique volunteering activity for companies looking for team building with soul and purpose! From groups of eight to 80 at any one time, 5 days a week, it’s a hands-on cooking workshop that produces hundreds of nutritious meals that get delivered out to the many charities we support to feed people in need.
For those at the top there’s the CEO CookOff, where business leaders join top chefs to cook for more than a thousand homeless and vulnerable people, at the same time as raising much needed funds for OzHarvest.
Staff can also run internal food drives and turn them into care hampers or sign up to join OzHarvest’s yellow army of volunteers!
EF: Anything else that would be helpful/interesting for our readers to know?
RK: People can donate money, time and food to OzHarvest, which would really help us continue to do what we do on a daily basis. To do this, just jump onto our website – www.ozharvest.org or call 1800 108 006. Every $1 donated means we can deliver the equivalent of two meals to people in need. Food donations are always welcome, or people can volunteer and join our ever-growing family.
EatFirst & OzHarvest
EatFirst is a long time supporter of OzHarvest and actively encourages its corporate catering clients to notify OzHarvest if have a surplus food from their order with us.
If there's a meeting cancelled at the last moment, or the boardroom just wasn’t that hungry today - we don't want them to throw it away. Instead, we encourage them to call OzHarvest and share the surplus food with the people that need it the most.