Certified Organics and Foodbank: Collaboration in Action

If you caught the first episode of ABC’s War on Waste program earlier this year, two things may have jumped out at you: firstly, the scale of food loss and food waste in Australia; and secondly, the incredible efforts that Foodbank and the food industry, including Australian Organic members and clients, are making right across the country to redirect this food to vulnerable Australians.

Do we really have a hunger problem in Australia?

Yes! The scale of the problem is staggering. More than two million Australians seek food relief every year with a third of these being children. The 2016 Foodbank Hunger Report revealed that one in six Australians has experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months, and they’re not just who you’d think. The face of hunger is diverse – mums and dads, children, the elderly, students, the under-employed, the unemployed and retirees (to name a few). And whilst hunger might be thought of as a city problem, rural and regional Australia is not immune. In fact, those living in rural and regional Australia are 11% more likely to experience food insecurity than their metro counterparts, and consequently, more than a third of the food donations delivered via the Foodbank network now go to rural and regional Australia.

What is Foodbank?

Foodbank is Australia’s largest food relief organisation, operating on a scale that makes it crucial to the work of the front line charities that are feeding people in need. Foodbank provides 65 million meals a year (175,000 meals a day) to more than 2,600 charities around the country, accounting for more than 70% of the food distributed by food rescue organisations nation-wide.

Foodbank is also the largest supporter of school breakfast programs in Australia, providing food for 1,750 schools nationally (both directly and via programs run by other organisations) to more than 100,000 students on a regular basis.

Where does Foodbank get its food?

Foodbank works from paddock to plate, rescuing and sourcing food and groceries from farmers, manufacturers and retailers. We then distribute these food and grocery items to front line charities around the country, who disseminate these items to people in need of food relief. You can think of Foodbank as a giant kitchen pantry, redirecting food and groceries away from landfill to the kitchens of people who need it most.

Farmers right across the country support Foodbank by donating grain, fruit and vegetables, meat, rice, eggs and milk. This fresh produce is used for distribution and/or as manufacturing ingredients for Foodbank’s Collaborative Supply Program, recognised as one of the most innovative foodbanking collaborations in the world. Through this program, we ensure consistent supplies of essential food items in our warehouses every day.  Farmers and suppliers donate or subsidise the ingredients, packaging and delivery of the products, and food manufacturers produce these key staple products using spare production capacity.

Will a national food waste strategy fix the problem?

Foodbank is one of a small number of organisations tasked by the Federal Environment Minister, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, to assist in the development of Australia’s first ever Food Waste Strategy. The Australian Government has committed to halving food waste by 2030 (consistent with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals), and the strategy is expected to be released at the national food waste summit being held in Melbourne on 20 November 2017.  This will represent Australia’s commitment to addressing global food waste in a world where 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or wasted each year, and only ¼ of what is wasted would be enough to end world hunger.

Australia has both a food loss (in the production, post-harvest, processing and distribution stages) and food waste (in retail and consumption) problem. In fact, the Australian Government has estimated that food loss and food waste combined costs the Australian economy $20 billion per annum, so there are massive benefits to addressing this issue.  However, Foodbank argues that the issue is not so much that there is not enough food, but that the food isn’t getting to the right places in the right time to avoid waste and help address food insecurity.

How can Australian Organic members and clients help Foodbank?

We are so incredibly grateful for the support many of you are already providing!  It is wonderful to see the Australian Certified Organic ‘bud’ featuring on so many of the products in our warehouses across the country. Farmers and growers are some of our most generous food donors, not only redirecting surplus or out-of-spec fresh produce, but also proactively making sizeable donations of grain, retail-grade fresh produce, milk, eggs, rice and meat to assist some of Australia’s most vulnerable. Likewise, food and grocery manufacturers and retailers do a wonderful job of supporting us, allowing us to ‘rescue’ food and groceries that – for a variety of reasons – don’t make it to the end consumer, and re-distribute it to those needing food relief. By donating food to Foodbank, you have the opportunity to reduce food waste, contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and help us tackle food insecurity right across the country.

Despite our best efforts, approximately 43 000 people are being turned away from our charity partners each and every month because demand is outstripping supply. The good news is that our enduring partnership with farmers and growers, peak bodies and food businesses across Australia has the potential to change this imbalance.

We would love to hear from those of you who might be able to assist us in securing more food and groceries. The more people we have involved, the greater impact we can have in helping families put a meal on the table and send their children to school with full tummies.

If you can help, please don’t hesitate to contact Foodbank Australia on (02) 9887 4144 or email admin@foodbank.org.au. For other ways to assist Foodbank, such as volunteering and running food drives, please visit the Foodbank website www.foodbank.org.au.