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Foodbank and Farmers: working together to fight food waste and food insecurity

Brianna Casey, CEO of Foodbank Australia, reports on the work of Australia’s largest food relief organisation and considers how can the farming community can help.

If you caught the first episode of ABC’s War on Waste program, you may have had two things brought to your attention: firstly, the scale of food loss and food waste in Australia; and secondly, the incredible work that Foodbank and farmers are doing right across the country to redirect this food to vulnerable Australians.

Foodbank and the National Farmers’ Federation are two of a small number of organisations selected 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, and the only way for us to achieve this ambitious goal is to take a paddock to plate approach.

We know that 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 these combined amounts to $20 billion per annum.

While Australia is experiencing a massive food waste problem, we are also facing a massive food insecurity problem. The scale of the problem is staggering. More than two million Australians seek food relief every year – a third of whom are children.

Do we really have a hunger problem in Australia?

Yes! Hunger is growing to crisis proportions in Australia. The most recent annual Foodbank Hunger Report revealed that one in six Australians has experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months, and they’re not 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. We were delighted to see the National Rural Women’s Coalition championing this issue at their recent Roundtable on Food Security, and look forward to working with them more closely in the months ahead.

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.
Brianna Casey, CEO, Foodbank 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 63 million meals a year (172,000 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). Foodbank provides regular breakfasts to more than 100,000 students at schools around the country and on top of this, more than 200,000 children seek food relief from our charities every month.

Brianna Casey, CEO, Foodbank Australia

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 them to people in need of food relief. You can think of us 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 right now by donating grain, fruit and vegetables, meat, 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.

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 and peak bodies across Australia has the potential to change this imbalance.

How can the farming community help?

We are so incredibly grateful for the support of farming communities right 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 and meat to assist some of Australia’s most vulnerable. By donating food to Foodbank, farmers 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.

We would love to hear from those of you who might be able to assist us in securing more food. The more growers 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’s General Manager – National Food, Michael Davidson on 0400 724 613 or email . For other ways to assist Foodbank, such as volunteering and running food drives, please visit the Foodbank website.

We look forward to working even more closely with the farming community in the months ahead.

Brianna Casey is the Chief Executive Officer of Foodbank Australia

Banner image - Foodbank Australia employs cloud in the fight against hunger

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