OzHarvest food app designed to help tackle hunger

OzHarvest is launching a new digital technology solution – the OzHarvest Food App – to tackle the hunger crisis and prevent food waste in regional communities.  The app is the first of its kind in Australia and is part of OzHarvest’s mission to address the national target to halve food waste by 2030 (in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.)

Australia produces enough food to feed everyone, yet over four million Australians experience food insecurity each year, with regional areas hit the hardest as food relief is increasingly hard to access[1].   Whilst OzHarvest is renowned for their bright yellow vans that rescue food in communities across Australia, the new Food App will focus on feeding those in locations where the vans cannot reach.

OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn said innovation has to be part of the solution for halving food waste and addressing the ever-growing hunger crisis that effects so many families each year.

“I am staggered at how many people are still going hungry, whilst good food continually goes to waste. Within one community there can be a business throwing away perfectly edible food and just around the corner a charity is struggling to feed people in need.  The OzHarvest Food App will help local communities support each other by connecting the two on a regular basis and make a tangible difference to people’s lives,” said Ronni.

After a successful pilot with 70 Woolworths stores across the country, OzHarvest will be making the new app available to any business, small or large, to help grow their network of food donors across the country. It is expected to support an additional 600 charities by rescuing over 2,000 tonnes of food to provide an extra six million meals in the first year alone.

Sharon Crook, CEO of local charity The Gathering in Humpty Doo near Darwin said before using the app it was very difficult to source a regular supply of fresh food.

“Thanks to the OzHarvest Food App we are now able to deliver a range of fresh and healthy food to the local community, two more remote communities feeding over 30 families and the emergency accommodation in Humpty Doo.  We now collect fresh fruit and veg regularly from our local Woolworths, and we even get meat which was a luxury before. It’s made such a big difference to people’s lives and I’ve seen people getting back on their feet, some are even volunteering to give back, it’s sparked a real sense of community.”

Feed the world and save the environment

A James Cook University scientist has come up with a novel approach to feed the world’s growing population and look after the environment at the same time.

JCU’s Professor Iain Gordon is the lead author of a new book outlining how agriculture and the environment can benefit each other.

He said the need is pressing. “Feeding the world’s growing human population is increasingly challenging, especially as more people adopt a western diet and lifestyle.

“It’s thought that meeting the food needs of nine billion people in the future will require over 120 million hectares of land being converted to cropland in developing countries alone.”

Professor Gordon said that means things have to change.

“We’ll end up with lose-lose if we continue on as we are. Nature will be relegated to a small percentage of protected areas. Agriculture will have to be highly intensified relying on large amounts of inputs of fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides and water, with significant negative impacts on nature.”

He said there are substantial political barriers to change, with environment a lower priority than agriculture within all levels of government, but alternate ways of operating are available.

“We could, as one example, provide habitats for pollinators on agricultural land. We’d avoid the situation they have in China where, because of the large amounts of pesticides used, much of the fruit grown in that country now relies on people hand-pollinating the trees. That’s a massive labour investment when nature could do the job for free.”

Professor Gordon said what the book proposes is different from ‘nature-friendly farming’ where farmers instigate practices such as setting aside farming land for biodiversity.

“Nature-friendly farming is about supporting biodiversity on agricultural land without necessarily focusing on the potential benefits that biodiversity can play in supporting agriculture. The focus has been on protecting one from the impacts of the other. We’re arguing now that nature and agriculture can, and should, work together and ultimately benefit from one another.”

The book, Food Production and Nature Conservation, will be launched on November 22.

When climate change hits our food supply, city foodbowls could come to the rescue

Australians may need to get used to coping with more disruptions to their food supply and rising food prices in a warming climate.

But the food produced near our cities – our “city foodbowls” – could play a vital role in increasing the resilience of our food supply, as discussed in a new briefing from our Foodprint Melbourne project.

The urban fringes of Australia’s major cities are some of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia. They also have access to valuable urban waste streams to support food production, including recycled water from city water treatment plants and desalination plants.

Nonetheless, Australia’s city foodbowls are at risk of urban development, and the opportunity to develop them as climate resilient foodbowls could be lost unless their value is recognised in metropolitan planning policy.

Climate shock

The Queensland floods of 2010-11 showed how a sudden extreme weather event could disrupt a city’s food supply. Major transport routes to Brisbane and other cities were cut off and supermarkets began to run short of some food.

And the Millennium Drought demonstrated the impact that drought could have on food prices, when fruit prices in Australia increased 43% between 2005 and 2007, and vegetable prices by around 33%.

Climate change is expected to reduce the capacity for food production across southern Australia due to water scarcity, increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

We don’t know exactly how climate change will affect food production, but it is likely that Australia’s major regional foodbowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, will see significant impacts in a severe drying scenario. Wheat and dairy production are predicted to decrease due to climate change. Crops such as fruit and vegetables are likely to be particularly affected.

As the impacts of climate change are felt in Australia’s regional foodbowls, urban and urban fringe (or “peri-urban”) areas of food production around Australian capital cities could become more important sources of fresh foods. Cities have access to resources that are in increasingly short supply, such as water, fertile land and organic waste streams that can be composted to provide fertilisers.

Australia’s city foodbowls

These urban fringes are not widely-recognised as “foodbowls”, but historically they have been an important source of food. Like many world cities, they were typically founded in fertile areas with good access to water. This fed their growing populations.

As cities sprawl, market gardens have been pushed further out and city foodbowls have shrunk, but many are still highly productive. Sydney’s foodbowl produces at least 20% of New South Wales’ total vegetable production, for instance, including the majority of the state’s total production of cabbage, spring onions, shallots and mushrooms.

Melbourne’s foodbowl produces a wide variety of foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat. It currently has the capacity to meet up to 41% of the food needs of city’s population.


Crops such as lettuce are commonly grown on the urban fringes of cities thanks to close access to markets and labour Rachel Carey


Some areas of Melbourne’s foodbowl have access to recycled water, such as Werribee to the city’s west and the proposed Bunyip Food Belt to the south-east. The Werribee Irrigation District, next to Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant, grows around 10% of the vegetables produced in Victoria, including the majority of the state’s broccoli and cauliflower.

Towards the end of the Millennium Drought, vegetable production in this region became dependent on recycled water from the water treatment plant as river levels fell.

But areas such as Werribee are under threat from urban development.

Resilient food supply

The importance of city foodbowls for resilient and sustainable food systems has been recognised internationally.

Cities such as Melbourne and Sydney are fed from a variety of sources – regional, national and global – as well as local. All are important, but urban and urban fringe food production has the potential to increase the resilience of a city’s food supply in a number of ways. These include reducing the dependence of city populations on distant sources of food, and maximising the use of limited natural resources.

If Australia’s capital cities are able to accommodate growing populations in a way that contains urban sprawl and retains their capacity for food production, city foodbowls could contribute to a food supply more resilient from climate change.

For this to happen, city planning strategies need to recognise the significance of city foodbowls for sustainable and resilient city food systems.

The Conversation

Rachel Carey, Research Fellow, Deakin University; Jennifer Sheridan, Researcher in sustainable food systems, University of Melbourne, and Kirsten Larsen, Manager, Food Systems Research and Partnerships, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why meat is important in the global battle against food insecurity

The increase in the world’s population has led to challenges in maintaining a balanced diet in both the developed and the developing world. More than two billion people worldwide suffer from “hidden hunger” or micronutrient deficiency.

The inadequate intake of essential micro-nutrients is detrimental to the mental and physical development of children and reduces the productivity and work capacity of adults.

Over the last two decades, there has been a significant reduction in food insecurity with the number of hungry or undernourished people decreasing from 18.7% to 11.3%. But globally food insecurity continues to be a daunting challenge. The prevalence and severity of food insecurity varies at regional, national and household levels. At least two-thirds of the food insecure households in the world are found in developing countries.

The current food security threats go beyond insufficient food quality. Nutritional value, safety and the distribution of the available foods all have an impact. In addition, outbreaks of food-borne illnesses and mass food contamination have been frequently reported as threats to food safety – a consequence of the rising pressure to rapidly increase food production.

Good quality meat has the potential to reduce food insecurity and poverty. It should be considered a tool to eliminate “hidden hunger”. This would require making sure it is evenly distributed across the world.

But there are several limitations that may contribute to the slow progress of using meat to conquer food insecurity worldwide.

A bad side to eating meat?

Science has shown that lean meat is good for you. This is because it contains properties that positively moderate lipid profiles in the body. This in turn has a positive impact on long-term health by producing polyunsaturated fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Some polyunsaturated fatty acids can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood and can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer. Linoleic acid contains fat fighting, insulin lowering properties which suppress the development of cancer in different areas of the body. This is the case even at relatively low dietary levels.

This is true of lean, unprocessed meat. Processed meat is a different story. A recent report by the World Health Organisation classifies processed meat as a carcinogen in the same category as plutonium and alcohol. It cautions that eating 50g of processed meat a day, which is the equivalent of up to two slices of bacon, increases the chance of developing colo-rectal cancer by 18%.

The same report acknowledges that meat is a rich source of nutrients and that eating meat and meat products also has health benefits. The moderation of meat consumption rather than eliminating it from one’s diet remains the most reasonable recommendation.

The poor can’t afford meat

The biggest problems around the consumption of meat relate to, on the one hand eating too much, and on the other cost and distribution.

South Africa provides an interesting case study. As living standards have improved, people’s diets have got better. This includes more meat and fruit and vegetable consumption. The increase in the amount of meat being eaten is linked to an increase in average income over the last two decades.

The increased demand for meat has led had two consequences: an increase in meat-related health threats such as cardiovascular diseases among the wealthy; and a rise in prices, making it less affordable for the poor.

South Africa, as a nation of fervent meat eaters, ranks 11 out of 15 top meat eating countries in the world, with over 50.7 kg of meat being consumed per capita each year. At the same time, most South Africans are not eating the food-based dietary recommendations of 80g to 90g lean cooked meat per day. This is because just over half the South African population is categorised as food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity and cannot achieve the recommended intake.

Other factors influence meat consumption

Despite its contribution as a complete nutrient source, meat has a bad reputation. Although scientific research has shown its multiple health benefits, consumers still question its safety.

And a large proportion of the worlds’ population adheres to religions with strong traditions around food consumption, especially meat. Consumption is often limited by intrinsic factors or lack of adherence to specific production, slaughter and processing methods.

In addition, organisations have been set up to speak against meat consumption in the name of animal protection, declaring it more a luxury than a need.

It is critical to consider these perspectives in the discourse on global food security.

The consumption guide

It is important for consumers to pay attention to the quality and quantity of the meat they consume. And how they prepare it. Setting personal health goals, such as consuming just enough to meet the average nutrient requirements, is key.

Chicken as a meat source can be viewed as a short term stepping stone. Chicken consumption has increased dramatically over the years, mostly due to its health qualities and lower cost.

Misconceptions about meat and its affect on health need to be tackled head on. Human beings were born omnivores. Meat has been part of their diet through the ages. This is one of the reasons it should be considered as part of any diet, as well as part of the solution to food insecurity.

The Conversation

Voster Muchenje, Professor of Meat Science, University of Fort Hare and Yonela Njisane, PhD student in the Department of Livestock and Pasture , University of Fort Hare

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Olympus helps to reduce food waste

More than 13,000 meals were served as part of OzHarvest's ‘Think.Eat.Save’ food waste awareness day in July. The Australian food charity's campaign aims to highlight and raise public awareness of how much food is thrown away each year. 

OzHarvest is one of the charities supported by Olympus Australia and staff from the company's offices around Australia volunteered to help at this year's event which was simultaneously held in eight cities and two regional centres across the country. OzHarvest uses donated and surplus food from retailers and restaurants, and invites the public to enjoy a free and delicious hot meal made from the rescued produce while learning about food waste from some of the nation’s top chefs, politicians and celebrities.

“Olympus Australia has made a commitment to OzHarvest which allows us to direct resources to them so that our impact is more significant,” said Oliver Clarke, Communications Manager for Olympus Australia. “Our view is that we are partnered with them for the long term which makes the most effective use of the company and staff's support for activities in the wider community.” 

‘Think.Eat.Save’ was launched in July with tri-partisan support at Parliament House in Canberra and the free meals were provided at venues in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Port Macquarie and the Sapphire Coast. High profile volunteers, such as chefs Neil Perry and Jost Bakker, assisted at functions to take a stance against food waste. Olympus staff helped serve the soup and desserts to lunchtime visitors in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The Olympus volunteers also helped set up the serving tents and clean up at the end of the day. 

Founder and CEO of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn said "Think.Eat.Save 2015 continues to highlight the disturbing amount of food wasted in Australia and around the world. Of the more than one billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption, approximately one third is wasted."

“Our modern day challenge is to create a sustainable food culture that can be shared by all, where we waste less at all levels of food production and distribution,” Kahn said.

Reducing food waste set to become the norm

A 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreement to reduce food waste by 10 per cent across the region is picking up pace as researchers and technical team members work towards their 2017 goal of developing effective strategies and actions to address urgent global food waste issues.

A third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That translates into about 1.3 billion ton per year. Lincoln University Associate Professor James Morton says reducing food waste is the logical first step in meeting the needs of a growing world population, which is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050. He recently attended the second of three APEC ‘Multi-Year Project’ meetings focused on addressing global food waste, where he spoke around the need to measure and reduce wastage in the livestock chain.
“Reducing waste and getting the best use out of what we produce makes far more sense than trying to increase food production by about 60 percent from what it was in 2005, which is what it would take to feed that many people. Producing more food through agriculture has consequences for the environment. At the moment we are taking more out than we’re putting back in. It’s not sustainable and we’re losing arable land.”

Issues around food loss and waste are complex and variable. Developing countries are most affected by food loss during production and food shortages, with 795 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished.  Developed countries are faced with massive food waste at retail and the point of consumption while dealing with an obesity epidemic, which affects about 600 million adults. 

Associate Professor Morton says finding solutions for food loss and waste is difficult when countries have different economies, production methods and natural resources. “There are no simple solutions, but there are things we can do such as minimising loss in the production process, reducing recalls, improving the cool chain and funding research into making the most use of co-products.”

A good example of where New Zealand has reduced losses in production by growing food to more accurate specifications is in the meat industry. Retailers catering for consumers who want less fat in their food are willing to pay more for lean meat. Farmers now grow lean animals which results in less waste of unwanted fat trimmings.
Meat consumption has increased significantly in recent years. “Urbanisation, a growing middle class and higher income are behind the growing demand for meat worldwide,” says Associate Professor Morton. “Livestock products offer high quality protein so meat is a very important food source.
“Most countries grow livestock to feed their own population. New Zealand and Australia are unique in that most of what is produced is exported. Because of that, waste is not such a concern here in New Zealand, but that waste is happening elsewhere instead – retailers carrying a wide variety of foods to respond to consumer demand and having to discard safe food by ‘best before’ dates to maintain quality standards and consumers with food left on plates and leftovers forgotten in the fridge, all lead to high levels of waste.”

Associate Professor Morton believes that livestock products are economically and nutritionally valuable, but that the high environmental cost of their production means reducing losses is essential. “New Zealand relies on its `clean green’ image so it makes economic sense to reduce the environmental impact of food production here.”

While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation supports better and increased use of co-products, it also wants to see more food items remaining in the food chain. He says that livestock co-products are often low value nutritionally but there may be opportunities to develop meat and plant protein combinations for export, if it was economically viable.

Food security is not a concern in Australia or New Zealand at present, but the topic is crucial elsewhere and is a stated priority in most other countries. APEC leaders see reducing food waste as a primary related task for ensuring confidence in food supply. 

The ‘Multi-Year Project’ aims to identify key issues and make policy recommendations around possible solutions and action plans which will ultimately be provided to all APEC member economies. APEC says increasing access to food while protecting natural resources and the environment will require intense public-private co-operation such as that envisioned by the project.