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OzHarvest is best known for its bold mission of fighting food waste. Started by social entrepreneur, Ronni Kahn AO in 2004, it is now one of Australia’s leading food rescue organisations, that redirects good food to more than 1,600 charities and supports people in need across the country.
Since their inception, they have delivered over 200 million meals. Their core work includes food rescue, education programs, advocacy work and social innovation projects. The work behind OzHarvest is even more critical as we pass through the pandemic.
OzHarvest reports a 46% increase in new charities needing food since March 2020. The Latch spoke to two volunteers, Sharon Dainty and Julie Gale, to learn from their experiences of volunteering and find out what it’s like to help.
Sharon went into an unexpected early retirement during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and wanted a useful activity to occupy her. She dislikes wasting food, and thinking of that reminded her of OzHarvest. Julie on the other hand joined after her daughter worked as a chef at OzHarvest in 2019. She was also largely inspired by Ronni’s book, A Repurposed Life.
Both Sharon and Julie were aware of food waste as a national problem but were terribly unaware of the large scale size of it. They saw the extent of 2.5 million tonnes of food with their own eyes, which brought them fresh perspectives.
Research shows that food waste is often overlooked in the climate change conversations, but is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gases. That’s more than all the emissions from the plastic we produce (3.8%), the aviation section (1.9%), and from extracting oil (3.8%).
OzHarvest is invested in ensuring that fresh, and nutritious food does not go to landfill and is re-directed to people who actually need it.
Sharon shares that there is no fixed schedule to volunteer as there is a huge variety of activities to participate in. Sometimes, she packs up to 1,800 individual meals in the HQ kitchen for freezing and distribution, helps to host Cooking for Cause initiatives, or is part of the waitstaff at the Refettorio OzHarvest community hub in Surry Hills. Another option is to volunteer at the free supermarket at Waterloo, which Julie enjoys the most, as it is the direct way of seeing that the food is going to people in need.
When asked, what are some of the most memorable moments of volunteering, Sharon chimes in that the team is super jovial and friendly, she jokes, “On my first day at HQ I actually asked someone if it was compulsory to smile all the time!”
One important factor for interested volunteers is the environment and support from the organisation they’re committing their time to. Both ladies attest to the positive and encouraging vibe of the organisation. Sharon appreciates how “OzHarvest regularly demonstrates how much they value their volunteers,” which can be seen in other like-minded volunteers who are a lot of fun to work with along with the chefs and staff of the core team.
As we pass through the last of the pandemic and enter sky-rocketing costs of groceries, OzHarvest is facing unprecedented demands from people all around Australia. The number of people experiencing food insecurity is now over five million in just one year. You can help mitigate this problem.
Consider volunteering your time, donating money, or sharing the word about OzHarvest. You will be part of building a solution towards food waste, food security, and sustainability.