Ten years ago, OzHarvest became the first organisation in Australia to rescue all types of perishable food that would otherwise have been wasted. They have over 600 volunteers nationally, and have delivered 28 million meals to-date to Australians in need. We caught up with Ronni Kahn, the CEO and founder of OzHarvest to share how OzHarvest started, their mission, what’s next and how you can help.
OzHarvest is now in its 10th year. Could you tell us about how you started and what food rescue involves?
Having been in the event industry for 20 years, I was witness to thousands of kilos of good food going to waste. I decided I wanted to make a significant contribution to my community and my country and realised that it was my purpose to connect surplus food with those in need. In 2003, a visit to South Africa and contact with an old friend who was doing amazing work to help underprivileged in South Africa galvanised me in to action and inspired me to begin this journey.
Ten years ago, OzHarvest became the first organisation in Australia to rescue all types of perishable food that would otherwise have been wasted. OzHarvest has been instrumental in highlighting and addressing the challenge of surplus food in our society ever since.
OzHarvest rescues quality surplus food from restaurants, retailers, food outlets, hotels and corporate kitchens across Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Newcastle to feed vulnerable communities. We will soon be expanding to the West Coast and perhaps you might even see us in New Zealand in the not-too-distant future.
We continue to do this while working towards our bigger goal of Nourishing Our Country through food rescue, educational and training programs and engaging the community and raising awareness about food waste and eating seasonal produce grown locally.
Which people are most in need?
Two million Aussies rely on food relief each year, and the most surprising thing is, half are children. One million children go to school without breakfast, or bed without dinner.
Why is the demand growing for you, and what is the solution to reducing it?
Food waste is currently costing Australians up to $10 billion each year, while two million people still rely on food relief. Our modern day challenge is to create a sustainable food culture that can be shared by all, where we waste less at all levels of food production, distribution and consumption.
OzHarvest’s driving philosophy is to Nourish Our Country. Nourishment is saving food from landfill and providing it to people in need. Nourishment is educating all sectors of our community to better utilise food, waste less and promote healthy eating and nutrition. Nourishment is about nurturing community togetherness through food, providing pathways to employment and changing lives. Nourishment is reinventing the culture surrounding food in our society. That’s our vision for the future.
Can you share some of the OzHarvest success stories?
We now operate nationally, have to date, delivered 28 million meals and rescued 9,000 tonnes of good quality food from landfill.
We have regional food rescue chapters happening with local volunteers driving this thanks to our REAP program. Our three points of focus is to rescue, educate and engage and we have achieved enormous impact to date!
Every dollar donated, helps us deliver two meals to people in need. Further to that, Bain & Co helped us measure our social return on investment (SROI) and found that for every dollar invested into OzHarvest, $5.68 of social value is delivered back to society.
How many volunteers do you employ and how can one get involved?
OzHarvest has a team of over 600 friendly volunteers which continues to grow. There are three ways to get involved: Donate time. Donate money. Donate food.
Another way is to get involved at home and change your own food waste behaviour for example, buying local and seasonal, using up leftovers and thinking differently about fruit or produce that might look ugly or imperfect on the outside!
Also spread awareness about our work. If you are living in a regional community, there are ways to set up a REAP chapter in your community too.
OzHarvest for Good Food Month: join OzHarvest in celebrating their 10th Birthday at a series of Table for 10 dinners at the new OzHarvest HQ Harvest Kitchen, featuring hot new top chefs and a delicious menu with soul! For event details visit the Good Food Month website.