Accompanying a different approach to food with an unconventional business model, OzHarvest is changing the face of food supply and helping the environment at the same time.
OzHarvest: the new food waste initiative
Tackling food waste is becoming a big issue around the world. Once viewed as an inevitable fact of life, there is now an increased awareness that solutions to the problem of discarded edible food are ready to be implemented.
One new initiative is the waste food supermarket, the first of which appeared in Denmark in 2016. These outlets have now spread to Australia, where one opened in April 2017, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Kensington. With its hours from Monday to Friday, between 10am-2pm, it is an offshoot project of the charity OzHarvest and is known as the OzHarvest Market.
Stock is sourced from a range of places including supermarkets, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, food distributors, and airlines. Customers are also invited to donate their own unwanted edible food. Some of the food has cosmetic blemishes, some is past its use-by date but is still fresh, some is being disposed of for commercial reasons, and other products have nothing wrong with them.
From an environmental perspective, wasted food going to landfill emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Diverting food that would otherwise go to landfill slows down climate change, and avoids wasting the water, energy and resources that went into producing both it and the associated packaging.
A new business model
Accompanying a different approach to food is an unconventional business model. It is a case of taking when you need and paying what you can. There is no stigma attached to not having any money. OzHarvest Market targets low-income-earners who are under financial stress, and can make the difference between whether or not they eat that night. However everybody is welcome.
The retail space is a pop-up in a building that has been temporarily donated by the development group TOGA, with the floor above being a youth shelter. Part of the concept behind the store is to provide an affordable source of food for these young people.
OzHarvest Market goes against the supermarket buy-in-bulk ethos, which drives a lot of wasted food. Instead it encourages shoppers to take no more than enough to meet their short-term needs, thus leaving something behind for other shoppers. There are frequent messages encouraging customers walking around the store to consider the extent of food waste and how their own habits could be contributing to it. OzHarvest sees the store as a model that is replicable around the country.
The future of Australia’s food waste problem
In Australia, food waste is a hot-button issue following the ABC TV War on Waste series. One episode investigated bananas that were discarded on cosmetic grounds before consumers ever saw them. The average Australian household bins about a thousand dollars worth of food annually, amounting to the equivalent of twenty percent of food purchases. Meanwhile, every year more than two million Australians receive food relief at some point. Amid this mixture of glut and scarcity, OzHarvest is working to bridge the gap.
Run by a woman named Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest operates around the country in larger population centres, collecting food from more than two thousand commercial outlets, and delivering to more than nine hundred charities. Australia has introduced ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation, ensuring that the donation of unwanted food carries no risk of liability if people later become ill. The goal of OzHarvest is to reduce food waste by fifty percent by 2030, and its work is complemented by other charities such as Foodbank and SecondBite.
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