Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Every year Australians throw out eight billion dollars worth of food. That's equivalent to 178 kilos per person. At the same time two million people rely on food relief every years.
Eight billion dollars.
One hundred and seventy-eight kilograms of food.
Two million hungry people.
It is easy to forget that hunger is not just a problem of the third world. In Australia we have government assistance for pensioners and the unemployed, but it isn't a lot of money and once rent and bills are paid there is not much left over for food. Then there are the times that a payment is skipped, forgotten, or late submission of a form means you drop out of the system for as long as it takes to review your case. What happens then?
You go hungry, or become dependent on the kindness of others.
When I lived in Fitzroy I would often see people gather in wait of the food van. There would be all walks of life; homeless people, students, families, elderly people. People down on their luck. And hungry. Packages of sandwiches would be distributed and cups of hot tea, coffee and soup. These food vans are supplied by organisations like OzHarvest and Second Bite who collect fresh excess food from stores and restaurants, cook it up into nourishing meals and help those in need. There often isn't enough, with 3 in 10 agencies requiring double the amount of food. However, somebody is doing something about that.
Now I love a bit of food porn; I love artfully arranged plates, assembly pics and the gory close-ups. But when I think about it, it seems a bit tactless to be taking pictures of food when there are so many people going hungry. The good news is, that for a while, I don't need to feel guilty about my food porn thanks to #mealforameal. Virgin Mobile have teamed up with OzHarvest to turn our food pics into meals. Every time you post a picture of your salad or that gluttonous, oozing, three layer hamburger and tag it #mealforameal, you help deliver a meal to somebody in need.
What I like about this promotion is that it is also increasing exposure for the great work that food vans do. Having worked at the markets at pack up time I am familiar with people from Second Bite doing the rounds. I hope that in addition to feeling virtuous about food porn, people start to think more about what happens to food we don't use. These organisations are crying out for donations of money and of our time. Volunteers are always welcomed and the more food that can be collected, the more people can be nourished.
But this is about more than just feeding people. There is a lot of talk lately about the carbon footprint of various foods. We are throwing out four million tonnes of good food per year, that is one heck of a big footprint. Organisations like OzHarvest and Second Bite are helping to reduce that waste from commercial businesses but we are contributing to the waste too. On average every Australian houeshold throws out one in five grocery bags, or $1036 of food per year.
Both my parents came from poor families. When my maternal grandparents were first married they lived in somebody's garage. My nana would often skip dinner (beans on toast) to ensure her girls had enough to eat. As a result, despite my parents being very comfortable now, my mum has never wasted food. She will wrap up two leftover lettuce leaves and a quarter of a tomato to save for tomorrow's sandwiches. I tease her for this, but I have a freezer full of ziplock bags of leftover rice (great for fried rice) and just this morning reminded The Bookworm (for the third time) to finish the yoghurt he had requested, "I will be very cranky if I have to throw it out!". I thought I would share a few of my tips to avoid wasting food (because I could certainly use that extra $1036 per year:)
:: Plan your meals, only buy what you need and try to only shop once a week (this also saves money because I end up with one or two extras every time I enter a supermarket).
:: If you have leftovers, portion them up immediately for lunch the next day or if you know you have a week of lunch meetings coming up, put them in the freezer for a ready to heat meal one night when you don't feel like cooking. This prevents your food from decaying in the back of the fridge.
:: My grandma used to tip all the crumbs out of biscuit or cereal packets into a big jar and use them to make the best crumbed chicken (it would work a treat for eggplant too).
:: Do a stocktake of your fridge once a week and identify anything due to expire soon or becoming wilty. Now get creative! What can you make to use it all up?
From my Instagram- leftover vegetables roasted then topped with greek yoghurt, cheese and paprika.
Old fruit (or rhubarb) can be chopped up and stewed with orange juice and spices, ready to top yoghurt or porridge for breakfast. And you can make your own granola or muesli with leftover bits and pieces from your baking exploits. This cafe-worthy bowl of delish is entirely crafted from leftovers.
What are your best food saving tips?
*All statistics as quoted by OzHarvest