Foodbank: reducing Australia’s food waste and supporting Australians in need
If you watched Episode 1 of ABC’s War on Waste program earlier this year, you might have been surprised by the amount of food waste in Australia – especially for there to be a whole television program dedicated to it! However despite there being so much waste, there is also a shocking number of Australians going hungry around the country, each and every day.
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. 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.
To help address this issue, Foodbank joined the Federal Environment Minister, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, and other key stakeholders in the development of Australia’s first ever National 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).
Not only does Australia have a massive food loss and food waste problem, but it also has a massive food insecurity problem. Food insecurity is a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development, and an active, healthy lifestyle. In October this year, Foodbank released its annual Foodbank Hunger Report which revealed that a shocking 3.6 million Australians, or 15% of the population, have experienced uncertainty around where their next meal is coming from in the last 12 months – and they are not who you’d think. Almost half of food insecure Australians are employed and 2 in 5 of these households are families with dependent children.
Foodbank exists to serve these vulnerable Australians, acting as a giant kitchen pantry, redirecting food and groceries away from landfill to a network of charities and then through to the kitchens of people who need it most. We are Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, providing 63 million meals a year to more than 2,600 charities and 1,750 schools. Each year we distributed more than 35 million kilograms of food and groceries, equating to more than 172,000 meals a day. At least 30 million kilograms of these food and groceries are sourced through ‘food rescue’, highlighting the phenomenal volume of edible food that, without Foodbank, may otherwise be sent to landfill.
Foodbank works from paddock to plate, rescuing and sourcing food and groceries from farmers, manufacturers and retailers. Foodbank then distributes these food and grocery items to front line charities around the country for people in need of food relief.
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.
With skyrocketing electricity prices and housing affordability continuing to cripple so many household budgets, it simply doesn’t take much to tip a family into food insecurity, and the 2017 Foodbank Hunger Report revealed a doubling in the number of vulnerable Australians who are regularly food insecure. As a consequence, despite our best efforts, approximately 65,000 people are being turned away from our charity partners each month because demand for food relief is outstripping supply.