Did you know that Australians are throwing away $5.2 billion worth of food every year? That's between $600 and $1000 of wasted food per average household! Imagine what you could do with a spare $1000 in your pocket?
Studies have shown that Australians throw away up to 20% of their grocery shopping, that's one out of every five bags they buy. And that's not it; studies also show that 20 to 40% of fresh fruit and vegetables are thrown away even before reaching the stores, when they don't match the strict cosmetic standards.
As well as being a waste of perfectly edible and nutritious ingredients that have used a lot of resources to be produced (did you know that to produce 1kg of beef requires up to 15,000 litres of water?!), wasted food ends up in landfill and produces methane, a greenhouse gas which has a warming effect on our planet 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide!
So you might be wondering… why so much wasted food? The main reasons are simple and are easily avoided with a bit of planning:
- We cook too much food and don't know what to do with the leftovers
- We forget to eat the food before its use-by date then we throw it out
- We buy takeaway instead of using the fresh food we have at home
- Kids don't eat their school lunches and they end up in the bin
- We don't check the fridge before going grocery shopping
- We shop without a shopping list or with an empty stomach, and end up buying more than we need etc.
To combat this problem and to help the community, various big and small organisations are doing their bits to ensure that less food goes to waste. This is called “Food Rescue". Food rescue organisations, such as Foodbank , OzHarvest and SecondBite specialise in collecting donated food, and to redistribute it to local food distribution charities.
Strict laws used to prevent businesses from donating food to charities, but since the 2005 amendment to the Food Donations Act, donors are protected provided the food is given ''in good faith'' and is safe to eat when handed over, which means more and more companies decide to donate their leftovers. In the donors list, you can find big brands such as Woolworth, Coles, IGA, Aldi, Bakers Delight, KFC and Arnotts, or many local businesses such as cafes, restaurants and grocers. To see the list of the organisations who donate food to the food rescue groups, you can visit their websites:
More and more surplus, leftovers and wasted food are now donated to food distribution charities, who can then prepare meals, or donate fresh food to people and families in need. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 working families in Australia that are food insecure and go without meals, so a free meal is never unwelcome. Hundreds of food charities, such as Mission Australia, the Salvation Army, Youth off the Streets redistribute the food to people in need, like homeless people, single parents, older people, marginalised indigenous people, refugees, women's shelters etc.
What can you do to help solve this waste problem? You can reduce waste at home by planning your shopping and your meals in advance, you can support cafes and grocers who donate their leftovers to charity, you can spread the message by encouraging people around you to be more aware of food waste, and if you're a business owner, manager or employee, download the Food Donation Tool Kit for a full guide on how to start donating your surplus.