How ‘Excess’ Food Can Feed The World

Feed the World

The problem of food waste is prolific not only in developed countries but across the globe. The food we deem inedible which is thrown away is not only grossly wasteful but can have a detrimental impact on the environment, releasing vast amounts of toxic methane as it decomposes. However, the real problem is the fact that perfectly edible food is being thrown away in the first place. Food is not cheap and resources are becoming more scarce, and yet many businesses dealing with food (restaurants, caterers, supermarkets) discard huge quantities of ‘excess’ food every day. The practice of food rescue is steadily becoming more popular, however, and one of the world’s first and most successful organisations to do this is OzHarvest.

Started in 2004 by Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest was the first food rescue organisation in Australia and remains the only one to collect excess food from any and every food provider. Including markets, wholesalers, supermarkets, farmers, stadiums, caterers, restaurants, boardrooms, shopping centres and corporate events, over 2000 commercial outlets donate their food to OzHarvest. The company, in turn, delivers this food to more than 900 charities who can use it to provide up to 15,000 meals per day for vulnerable people. These charities may be homeless shelters, youth groups, service organisations for addicts, refugee centres, indigenous centres, or working with the elderly, people with mental health issues or physical disabilities.

The charity has four pillars of work:

  • Rescue – The redistribution of edible, good quality excess food
  • Educate – Spreading awareness on the issues of food waste, security, sustainability and how food rescue can help
  • Engage – Get communities involved with the projects and add “purpose to peoples’ lives through meaningful action”
  • Innovate – Use new technologies and creative ways to solve the problems of hunger and food waste

But OzHarvest didn’t have the easiest of starts because in 2004 what they aimed to do was, by law, not allowed. Legislation prevented commercial outlets from donating their surplus food to charities until Ronni Kahn and her team lobbied using pro-bono lawyers to get the laws changed. In 2005, New South Wales passed the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act and many other states followed suit. What is inspirational about this element of OzHarvest’s history is that Ronni didn’t allow an issue as big as the law of the land to impact something she felt strongly about. When she first started OzHarvest, what they pledged to do was considered illegal, but thanks to her dedication and passion for the cause the laws have now been changed to permit the organisation’s work. In compliance with the laws, the food must be transported safely and delivered on the same day as it is collected, ensuring it is still edible and safe when it arrives. None of those who donate the food are liable and all of the workers in OzHarvest are trained in food safety handling.

Food waste is a problem all over the world, even in countries where vast portions of the population are undernourished. Laws are changing however to allow the kind of work OzHarvest began to be carried out worldwide. In France a law was passed in 2016 to force supermarkets to donate excess food to charities. A similar law is being considered in the UK in the near future. The US has no legislation like this as such but there are laws which allow donations such as The U.S. Federal Food Donation Act (2008) which permits the donation of excess food to non-profits and charities.  

In 2016, UKHarvest officially founded as a sister organisation, endorsed by well-known television chef Jamie Oliver. Supported by its Patron, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, UKHarvest is headed by Yvonne Thomson. Following the same ethos and model created by Ronni and OzHarvest, the first few months of the British equivalent have been highly successful and received considerable support from commercial food outlets in the UK. KiwiHarvest was started in New Zealand in 2015 and similar organisations, Equoevento and Banco De Alimentos, operate in Italy and Peru respectively.

If you’re interested in getting involved with OzHarvest, UKHarvest or you’ve even been inspired by Ronni and her mission to make a difference in your country, you can! Donate food on a one off occasion or sign up to become a regular contributor if you own a commercial food business. You can also donate money or your time. These organisations are always looking for more people to help out at food drives or get involve with their team building activities to raise awareness. Whatever way you choose to make a difference, remember to post about it in the More Good Deeds app, spreading the message and the happiness which comes from performing an act of kindness and inspiring others to do the same.

Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.