A new partnership is helping to reduce food waste and feed the hungry in Sydney’s inner suburbs, writes Tatyana Leonov.
The statistics on the amount of food discarded in Australia are staggeringly shocking. It's estimated that around 20 per cent of the food we purchase is thrown away. And with IBISWorld statistics revealing that Australians spent a total of $158 billion on food between 2012 and 2013....That’s around four million tonnes of food wastage per year.
Enter OzHarvest, Australia’s first perishable food rescue organisation. “So much of the food we waste is great for human consumption, it’s just cosmetically imperfect,” laughs OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn. “It might be a little bruised or bashed or the label might have been misprinted. For reasons such ad these it'd been discarded - but it's no logical."
Putting two and two together (the amount of food being wasted and the volume of Australians going hungry), Ronni launched OzHarvest in 2004. To date, the revolutionary company has delivered around 32 million meals to hungry Australians and saved approximately 10,000 tonnes of food that would have otherwise gone to waste. “My ultimate goal is to minimise food waste, poverty, hunger and homelessness,” Kahn says. “We’re doing well...but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The donator list spans many types of businesses willing to help out. “The food comes from manufacturers, producers, growers, large hotel, small cafes, delis, supermarkets... the list goes on," Kahn says. "We pick it up and deliver it to those in need. And although we don’t pick up from individuals, they can help in other ways – time and money.”
In May this year, OzHarvest opened Harvested, Australia’s first pop-up cafe (in a donated, underutilised space in Pyrmont) featuring a produce menu that would otherwise be landfill destined. Until the end of July (and probably continuing on), every Tuesday and Wednesday lunch diners can eat harvested food crafted by chef Travis Harvey. The donation price of $15 sees proceeds go to OzHarvest and includes seven or eight choices that are designed to be shared.
The idea behind the cafe is to substantiate just how delicious and nutritious discarded food can be while supporting the move to minimise food waste. “Of course, I hope it also inspires people to embrace the concept at home,” Kahn says.
If eating discarded food sounds a bit too taboo, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm, diners are treated to a different kind of dining experience in the same Pyrmont space. Chef and owner Fouad Kassab has teamed up with OzHarvest and is preparing Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine at his pop-up restaurant Baraka. “It just makes sense to service food out of underutilised spaces,” Kassab says. “This idea came about when I met Ronni while running my pop-up Chic Pea in Summer Hill, which operated out of the Plunge cafe premises. Plunge didn’t operate at night and it was logical to use the space rather than to run my restaurant from new premises. This ideology of maximising the use of a resource – one that is perfectly fit for purpose but is generally overlooked – is the same ideology that set Ronni off on the path to founding OzHarvest.”
Although Kassab does not use rescued food to form his tantalising menu, he assists OzHarvest’s efforts in as many ways as possible. This includes donating a portion of earnings to OzHarvest, employing underprivileged youth that have undergone OzHarvest’s Nourish training, running monthly community-focused dinners to raise funds for OzHarvest, and of course, donating any excess food to OzHarvest.
Like at Harvested, the menu at Baraka is designed for sharing. “Sharing food is such an integral part of Lebanese culture and it’s an enjoyable way to eat,” Kassab says. “It’s not only social, but it also generally results in less food wastage.”
Kassab also makes time to share laughter and chatter with guests. He works the room, talking to diners about his passion for Middle Eastern- inspired cooking, often recalling memories from his childhood days when he began his love affair with food while living in the small Lebanese village of Ain el Delb.
“The dishes at Baraka are inspired by my childhood memories, my travels and my new life in Australia,” Kassab says. “And of course I’ve designed dishes that I’m confident Australians will love.”
Both Harvested and Baraka are located at 56 Harris Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009. Harvested opening times are every Tuesday and Wednesday lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm until the end of July. Baraka opening times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for dinner from 6pm onwards until October. Both pop-ups may run longer. Info: ozharvest.org and barakaoz.com.au.